News Column

Mobilizing Investment - Ecowas Governors End Monrovia Meeting

June 17, 2014

Wade C. L. Williams

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Bank for Development and Investment (EBID) has ended its 12th Ordinary Meeting of its Board of Governors comprising Finance ministers of the sub-region and economic policy makers in Liberia.

The meeting held at the Royal Grand Hotel in Monrovia on June 16, 2014, brought together fifteen finance ministers including Liberia'sAmara Konneh and was declared open by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Making remarks during the opening ceremony, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that the meeting marks a turning point in Liberia's dark past as the country reclaims its international image. Recounting Liberia's role in the establishment of the bank, President Sirleaf said the country played a pivotal role in the establishment of the entity naming Liberians such as the late Dr. Romeo Horton who became the bank's first managing director followed by Mr. Robert Tubman.

"Specifically tailored to address manifold issues of infrastructural development, regional trade and transport service delivery, the bank has gone through a period of structural and institutional changes over the years, culminating in 2007 into a single structure, with the objective of harmonizing its activities into a unified administrative structure," she said.

"Over those years we have seen critical investments in various projects across the region, through financing from the bank. Projects, including the construction of seaports, pavement of highway roads, linking sub-regional territories, resorts, agriculture investments, all seeing remarkable success over the years."

President Sirleaf reiterated calls for the Board of Governors of EBID to open up capital portfolio to non-regional members and other institutional investors in the face of the

slow payments of capital by regional members.

"The admission of non-regional members will enable EBID to contribute to the economic and social development of Member States through low interest loans," the Liberian leader suggested, adding, "With a larger membership, the Bank will be endowed with greater expertise, and the credibility of its partners would allow it to have access to the markets of non-regional Member States."

Minister Konneh who now chairs the Board of Governors, speaking during the opening ceremony said the year 2014 is an important year for the bank in terms of what it has set out to achieve.

"This year marks a crucial period of reflection for the Bank as we review progress over the last four years, consistent with our strategic plan from 2010 to 2014; looking at our agenda, we have set for ourselves a clearly ambitious target and I am very confident we will derive the required outcomes to move the Bank forward."

Continued Minister Konneh: "Though we have been challenged over the last few years, particularly in addressing capitalization and resource requirements for the Bank, we have still seen remarkable progress as we continue to sustain the foundation for growth and expansion. Today we come together to review some of the issues, not with all the answers, but with a unity of purpose that would ensure that we make the hard choices and take the tough decisions, both policy and operational in helping shape the future of this institution."

He said as the region continues to witness what he calls economic and social stress along with the growing exposure of ECOWAS economies to external shocks, there is a need to approach the future of the bank with renewed urgency.

Mr. Bashir M. Ifo President of the ECOWAS Bank highlighting the outcome of the deliberations, told journalists that the board of governors, considered several items on the agenda including the adoption of guidelines for the criteria for opening up the capital of the bank to non-regional partners.

"The governors discussed, read and adopted these guidelines. Governors also examined a request by a private investor to invest in a recovery of EBID based on the permission of the board of directors and the governors also gave necessary approvals for continued negotiations with this investor," he said.

"Governors further examined the activity report of the bank for the year 2013, adopted it as well as approved the account presented by the external auditor."

He praised the government of Liberia for the level of recovery since democratic elections in 2005 and the subsequent inauguration of an elected government in 2006,

which saw President Sirleaf taking over the mantle of authority.

"In spite of the daunting challenges, the Liberian government continues to create the enabling environment to achieve socioeconomic progress ad constructively engage the international community. Improvement in security, governance and the rule of law, have led to the mobilization of domestic and international support with resources both material and human, to enhance Liberia's drive to achieve the MDGs," he said.

He said during the period under review, the Board of Directors approved 21 projects in the amount of UA 153.7 million or roughly US$232.9 million; adding that on a yearly basis, approvals increased by 17%.

Mr. Ifo said the approvals of new facilities bring total commitments in respect of operations approved by the Board of Directors to UA 1.15 billion for 177 projects in favor of Member States of the Community, between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2013, adding that new commitments amounted to UA 118.7 million (US$180 million) for 15 projects in 2013, indicating an increase of 40% over the level recorded in 2012.

He stated that EBID has to be properly endowed if it is to remain an important partner in the sub-region's quest for development.

"The prompt payment of capital subscriptions by Member States will therefore send a very strong signal to our partners and other investors about the Bank's credibility," he said.

Continued Ifo: "The availability of concessional resources to the Bank is key in ensuring that it attends to the enormous developmental needs within the sub-region. Considering that most of our countries have debt management policies that espouse a high level of grant element in their borrowings, the availability of concessional resources to the Bank will go a long way in helping both the countries and the Bank achieve their developmental objectives."

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Source: AllAfrica

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