With a view to coordinating and strengthening the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019, otherwise known as COVID-19 in West Africa, the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), under the chairmanship of H.E. Mr. Issoufou MAHAMADOU, President of the Republic of Niger, and current Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, on 23 April, 2020, held a video-conference Summit to better analyze the situation and impact of the rampaging virus.
The Authority, in its communique at the end of the summit, expressed deep concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in the ECOWAS region, which, as at 22 April, 2020, had a cumulative number of 6,083 cases consisting of 4,232 active cases, 1,793 recoveries and 158 deaths. While wishing a speedy recovery to the infected, the Heads of State and Government particularly expressed sympathy to the people and governments of all Member States for the loss of some citizens as a result of the pandemic and reiterated their solidarity with affected citizens during this difficult time.
The Summit also expressed deep concern about the negative social, economic, financial and human security impact of COVID-19 on all ECOWAS Member States, as well as the serious threat it posed to the regional integration process as well as regional peace and security agenda. Consequently, in a show of its resolve to strengthen the fight against COVID-19 and pursue economic stabilization and recovery, it unanimously agreed to the following:
A. In terms of the fight against COVID-19:
i. Invite the ECOWAS Member States to make their contribution to the African Union Solidarity Fund and strengthen cooperation between the African Centre for Disease Control (ACDC) and the West African Health Organization (WAHO) in order to make support to the ECOWAS Member States more effective;
ii. Strengthen cooperation between Member States in research, training and experience sharing in general health matters and in the fight against COVID-19 in particular;
iii. Assess the situation thoroughly, on a case-by-case basis, before lifting the measures put in place to protect the population;
iv. Provide WAHO with timely epidemiological information on a daily basis in order to enhance regional coordination and collaboration during the pandemic;
v. Sensitize the population on the dangers of COVID-19 and need for behavioral change, in order to contain the spread and break the chain of transmission of the disease;
vi. Increase testing, continuously trace and treat people suspected of contracting the virus;
vii. Open humanitarian transport corridors for medical and other personnel in the fight against the pandemic, to enable them transport and deliver required personnel, equipment and materials;
viii. Allocate at least 15 percent of Member States’ annual budgets to strengthen the health care systems as recommended by the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in its Extraordinary Summit held on 6 November, 2014, in Accra, the Republic of Ghana, which is contained in Directive A/DIR. 01/11/14 on the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the Region;
ix. Encourage Member States to pool, as far as possible, their purchases of equipment and drugs to combat COVID-19;
x. Continue to put in place humanitarian and palliative measures to assist the population, particularly through the distribution of foodstuffs and provision of financial assistance to the poor in strict compliance with the necessary health measures.
B. In terms of stabilization and economic recovery:
i. Develop jointly, a response plan taking into account the fight against the spread of the pandemic and a post-pandemic economic recovery plan;
ii. Issue long-term treasury bills and bonds to finance critical investment needs, to support the private sector and revive economies;
iii. Provide substantial support to the social sectors (distance learning tools, strengthening of health systems and facilities, easy Internet access, etc.) and for the most disadvantaged segments of society (social safety nets);
iv. Deploy through the Central Banks, tools, means and significant liquidity to support; the financial sector, in particular, banks and financial institutions, in providing assistance to the private sector, especially small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs); microfinance institutions in providing support to the informal sector;
V. Mobilize additional resources from the international community to address the economic and social challenges confronting Member States;
vi. Support the African Union’s initiative to negotiate with partners for cancellation of Public debts and restructuring of private debts of African countries;
vii. Implement urgent measures to support the local production of consumer goods, including agricultural products, thereby reducing the import bill for these goods;
viii. Set up a support program for the pharmaceutical and health protection equipment manufacturing sector, whose output covers barely 20% of the region’s current consumption needs;
ix. Avoid the imposition of import restrictions on other ECOWAS countries, particularly with regard to essential goods (drugs, food, etc.); X. Convene a meeting of the Convergence Council to consider the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications on macro-economic convergence performance in 2020 and beyond.