Ministers and Commissioners responsible for Trade, Industry and Investment in the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) have met in Accra to deliberate and validate the ECOWAS Automotive Industry Policy Framework.
The validation of the policy would enable ECOWAS member countries to harmonize their automotive policies in order to optimize the benefit in the value chain of the industry.
Currently, countries in the sub-region import 450,000 vehicles every year out of which 80% are used (second-hand) vehicles.
Mr Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen, Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry, in his welcome address, at the opening of the Ministerial Meeting on Validation of ECOWAS Automotive Industry Policy Framework, on Friday, said regional harmonization of the automotive policies would accelerate the implementation of the policy.
He noted that the automotive industry had wide value chain therefore some countries could decide to produce some parts of the vehicle such as car tyres, wipers, spare parts among others, which would prevent unnecessary competition among member countries.
Mr Kyerematen said the automotive industry is a strategic sector, which would aid in solving the unemployment situation in the sub-region, and underlined the need for ECOWAS nations to adopt manufacturing and industrialization policies to help solve the unemployment challenge.
In that vein, Nana Akufo-Addo’s government had adopted comprehensive and robust industrialization policy through the formulation of a 10-point plan, including the One-District, One Factory initiative, in which each district was being supported to establish an enterprise.
Additionally, government is establishing anchor industries and One-Region, One-Park, which would serve as an industrial enclave for each region to accelerate economic growth, he explained.
The Minister believed that it is only through economic industrialization that would aid the nation to add value to its natural resources and expand the import substitution as well as create jobs for the teeming unemployed youth.
For the past 100 years, he said, Ghana had been depending on cocoa and gold for the sustenance of its economy, therefore it was adopting a paradigm shift in its economic development, and that, the ECOWAS Automotive Policy was in sync with the Government’s industrialization agenda.
He underscored the need for ECOWAS countries to harmonize and standardize their national policies on the importation of vehicles, which would aid in reducing the importation of used vehicles into the sub-region, saying that, there should be a common orientation on the free trade liberation within the sub-region to facilitate the free movement of goods and services.
Mr Kyerematen advised ECOWAS nations to strategize ways to attract original equipment manufacturers such as Toyota, BMW, Nissan and others to learn from them and improve on standards.
Mr Yero Baldeh, the Country Director of the African Development Bank, said the ECOWAS Automotive Policy would contribute to the Bank’s “Industrialize Africa” and Integrate Africa” goals, which was in line with its private sector strategy.
He said the Bank’s strategic goal was to help improve the capacity of African producers, particularly manufacturers to compete with imported products in the local market.
“As you’re aware, industry has always played a vital role in development. It boosts economic activity along value chains from raw materials to finished products. It lifts productivity by introducing new equipment and new techniques, increases the capacities of the workforce, diffuses these improvements into the wider economy and generate formal employment, which in turn creates jobs,” Mr Baldeh pointed out.
He expressed optimism that the implementation of the policy document would give the necessary impetus to transform the industrial and economic landscape of the sub-region.
Madam Aisha Abubakar, the Minister of State of Industry, Trade and Investment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who presided over the meeting, said the ECOWAS Automotive Policy was rooted on the experience of the Nigerian Automotive Industry Development Plan, which commenced in 2013.
She said 58 firms had registered to engage in car assembling plants in Nigeria and believed the ECOWAS Automotive Policy has inherent benefits that would accelerate the development of West Africa.
For instance, she said, a country that has the potential for rubber plantation may set up a tyre manufacturing plant while others could establish recycling plants or a scrap metal plant that would speed up the economic growth of the sub-region.
The meeting was organised by the ECOWAS Commission, in collaboration with the African Development Bank, with support from Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation Trust Fund.
It brought together trade, industry and investment ministers and commissioners in the sub-region as well as heads of key sector agencies.