The government of China and authorities of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Wednesday moved to strengthen relations by signing a framework agreement for cooperation in specific areas with a view to enhancing economic cooperation between both sides.
The framework agreement was signed in Abuja, Nigeria's capital city, when a high-level delegation of ECOWAS and Chinese officials met on ways to boost trade, investment and technical cooperation between China and the sub-region.
"Three months ago in July, we successfully held FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation) in Beijing and ECOWAS had a strong delegation there. China is willing to support African integration by all means. China and ECOWAS have made great consensus toward strengthening the ties between them.
ECOWAS is one of the strongest regional blocs implementing great policies and it has been committed to west Africa development. For this reason, it is highly significant for China and ECOWAS to develop certain mechanisms to further deepen cooperation," said Li Jinzao, China's Vice Minister of Commerce who led a delegation of high-level officials from China to the meeting.
In the next three years, according to the vice minister, China will establish trans-national cooperation with African countries and the country will provide customs and commodity inspection facilities to enhance trade and commerce in the region, as part of its support. He added that the move will foster investment cooperation.
Responding to a proposal by the ECOWAS delegation for the Chinese government to assist the West coast of Africa in completing the construction of a 2000 km trans-west African highway project it has embarked on, the Chinese top official assured that the government of the Asian country will respond to the request in due time.
According to officials, although some 1,200 kilometers have been covered in the yet-to-be completed 2,000 km trans-west African highway project linking nine countries, the remaining part of the work will gulp about 10 billion U.S. dollars.
"Our technical staff will carry out further studies and make a focus before we can discuss the work to be done. Also, we need proper understanding between the nine specific countries linked to that highway. They must make agreement before we can begin to discuss the funding. It is a huge financial project and we need African financial institutions to also support it, not only the Chinese. We so much believe in this project and we must continue to be in touch," Li added.
Announcing a donation of 200,000 U.S. dollars by the Chinese government to further boost the ECOWAS integration process and to enhance capacity development within the region, the vice minister expressed hope that the partnership between China and the west African bloc will last for a long time.
Earlier, vice president of the ECOWAS Commission Toga McIntosh who led high-level officials of the regional bloc to the meeting had said the forging of a new and progressive partnership has ushered in a new historical process in the growing China-Africa relations. The relationship, according to McIntosh, is now strategic in nature with a focus to ensure a brighter future.
"This new momentum to China-Africa exchanges and cooperation must not slip from our hands, nor should we allow the bundle of opportunities to vanish before our eyes," he said, adding that the regional bloc has drawn inspiration from China's determination to establish a partnership with ECOWAS, especially in enhancing trans- national and trans-regional infrastructure development.
"A joint committee will be set up and will be saddled with the responsibility of monitoring and examining the effective implementation of the agreement by ECOWAS and China with a view to expand areas as well as explore new ways of cooperation," said the ECOWAS vice president.