Alva M. Wolokolie
Heads of State and Government of the Mano River Union (MRU) have stressed the need not only to strengthen collaboration among countries’ national defense and security systems, but also to invest heavily in energy, transport and telecommunications infrastructure. The Heads of State said the peace that is enjoyed today is even more urgent in the face of high employment rates, particularly among youthful populations. With this, they said it will promote robust growth across the sectors of the sub regional economy and trigger an increase in job creation for everyone.
Speaking yesterday at the opening of the 22nd session of the MRU Summit held in Monrovia, the chairperson of the MRU, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, told the audience that she has made a commitment to President Donald Kaberuka to chair the High-Level Panel that will work on mobilizing the Bank’s 13th Replenishment, a major objective of which is to support the initiative of the MRU and fragile States.
President Sirleaf who spoke on behalf of President Prof. Alhaji Alpha Conde of Guinea, President Dr. Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’ Ivoire and Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone explained that the importance of this regional approach will enable member countries to formulate action programs to achieve the economies of scales that will attract private capital and investment.
The MRU Chairperson indicated that this is why the meeting held places emphasis on energy and road connectivity. She added also this is why the four countries are poised to begin implementing the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) project, connecting countries to an energy grid to supply electricity to citizens across the basin.
President Sirleaf then acknowledged the presence of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, United Nations Office for West Africa; other officials and Ministers from member states, including the members of the Diplomatic Corps and other distinguished guests who were in attendance for the opening ceremony. The Liberian leader also commended the Secretary-General of the Union for the tremendous work she has done in identifying interconnecting infrastructure projects, particularly in power and roads, in all of member countries. She has also initiated dialogue with potential development partners who might finance such operations.
“We commend our ECOWAS Chairman, President Alassane Ouattara, for his continuing efforts to maintain peace beyond our borders. Our challenge now is to take action based upon the report that will be made to us, as a result of yesterday’s Ministerial Council Meeting,” The MRU chairperson said.
According to the MRU chairperson, the presence of those guests is a manifestation of member countries’ collective commitment and desire to foster the development which people so richly deserve.
President Sirleaf narrated that since 2008, when they agreed to revive the Union, they have seen slow but steady progress, despite initial challenges. She said MRU agriculture ministers have made recommendations on how to achieve food security in the sub region, and have formulated a food security program which focuses on rice and cassava.
“We implemented the HIV/AIDS/STI pilot program in the border areas, with financing by the African Development Bank; we established joint border security and confidence-building units along our shared borders; and formulated the operational plan on security. Moreover, we have finalized a strategic plan to guide the MRU’s work”.
“Today, through our collective leadership, our economies are showing significant growth. Effective use of our natural resources in mining, in agriculture, and petroleum potential provides the basis for higher growth. Yet, greater efforts will be required to expand the private sector. These are now under way in all of our countries. However, we cannot obtain the maximum potential of growth unless we tackle the issue of infrastructure,” President Sirleaf as MRU chairperson said.
Commenting further, the President said the MRU has unique opportunity to further its work in infrastructure because of the interest that the African Development Bank has placed on the Union and on fragile States. She disclosed that she had the opportunity to meet with the Bank’s Senior Managers, and the Deputies who provided their financing, in Tunis, on February 20 and 21, and I urged them to accelerate their action on the initiative that has already been formulated to connect Mano River countries through increased funding to address the substantial gaps in transportation and energy infrastructure. The results of that effort, she added are efforts by all of her ministers who have worked assiduously to see fruition.
“All of us are fully committed to our pledge to transform the lives of our citizens, as demonstrated in our collaborative efforts to drive forward our sub region’s development. Indeed, it was such a pledge which got us elected to office. We appreciate the high expectations of our peoples, the anxiety associated with fulfilling them, and we applaud their patience and resilience as they collaborate with us. We are also grateful for the renewed commitment of our development partners to support us as we realize our vision for a vibrant and prosperous Mano River basin.
Again, let me welcome you to this Summit, as we look forward to frank and productive deliberations,” MRU chairperson, President Sirleaf concluded.