Accra: The Second ECOWAS-China Business Forum, which focuses on attracting additional Chinese investment and development to the region, opened in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, on Tuesday. The two-day forum will also focus on healthcare and pharmaceuticals, agro-food and allied services, mining, as well as information and communications technology.
It will feature presentations by key business, trade and investment discussions by private sector and government operatives from the two sides and one-on-one networking sessions.
Opening the Forum, Ghana’s Vice-President John Mahama said he expected a strong partnership to emerge from the discussion to help enhance production capacities, address supply side constraints and boost intra-West Africa trade.
He said the forum should provide the two sides with a platform to better advance the cause for greater equity in the global economic arena so that more and more countries in the ECOWAS zone could enter “the highway of development”.
Mahama urged governments in the sub-region to provide opportunities to private sector operators to play their role in stimulating growth and employment in the various economies. He said while governments had a role to play, in the long run sustainability would only be achieved through the growth and expanded output of the private sector.
Mr. Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, President of the ECOWAS Commission, said ECOWAS was ready and prepared to work with China to take the relationship to the next appreciable level that would be sustained with more actions and mutual benefits.
“It is also important to state that in conformity with our vision of an ECOWAS of the People, we want to assure China and our private sector operators that ECOWAS will build with you, a mutually beneficial and sustainable partnership through which the social and economic development of the people shall be and remain a first-class priority,” he said.
Mr. Yu Ping, Vice Chairman, China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, underscored China’s commitment to its trade relations with Africa and expressed the hope that the forum would help to strengthen this relationship.
The maiden event in China in 2008 saw over 1,000 participants from West Africa, including 200 private sector operators and 150 government officials in attendance. It focused on stimulating Chinese investments in energy, mining and petrochemicals, construction, textile and light industry, as well as pharmaceuticals, agriculture, financial services, machinery, electronics and telecommunications.
Several memoranda of understanding and agreements for investments, worth billions of dollars, were signed between Chinese companies and the Governments of Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria for various infrastructural development projects such as airports, roads and dams.
Meanwhile, Ghana’s President John Evans Atta Mills has expressed the hope of ECOWAS getting stronger and spending less time on conflict resolution to forge an accelerated development of the sub-region.
He expressed concern about the evil effects of conflicts and urged the new hierarchy of the sub-regional body to continue with efforts to reduce conflicts for the benefit of the people.
President Mills made the call on Tuesday when Dr. Ouedraogo, the new ECOWAS Commission President, led a delegation to pay a courtesy call on him at the Castle, Osu. “We in Ghana believe in ECOWAS and have the fullest confidence in you and your colleagues to continue with the work that you are doing,” President Mills said.
Responding, Dr. Ouedraogo expressed appreciation for the welcome accorded him and his delegation and thanked the President for the high level representation at the Forum.