The Authority of ECOWAS has approved the harmonised ECOWAS Protocol for cross border movement of persons and goods during the pandemic and caps the cost of COVID-19 PCR test for travel within the region by ECOWAS nationals at a maximum of US$50.The communique issued by the ECOWAS Commission after the 58th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS held on January 23, 2021 via videoconference said that The Authority also approved a pooled procurement approach for anti COVID vaccines.
It instructed the ECOWAS Commission to set up a Vaccine Revolving Fund and called on national governments, development banks, the private sector and partners to contribute to the Fund.
It noted that the Fund will be used 6 to secure anti-COVID vaccines in the region through short-term pooled procurement and medium-to long-term regional manufacture.
The Authority also instructed the ECOWAS Commission and the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) in conjunction with Member States, to lead the process of sourcing 240 million doses of preferably WHO-approved vaccines through direct and collaborative approaches to manufacturers, partners and friendly foreign governments that may be willing to sell extra doses that they may have pre purchased.
The Authority requested the ECOWAS Commission and the WAHO to drive the process of supply of vaccines, in line with the COVAX Initiative and taking into account the initiatives of Member States at the continental and international level, to ensure the availability of as many vaccines as possible.
The Authority also directed that the vaccination campaign should start latest by the end June, 2021 and to immediately establish a COVID-19 Donor Working Group to undertake the fundraising campaign and appoint eminent citizens as investment champions to support the campaign.
It welcomed the successful handling of COVID-19 by Member States, through the bold measures and robust initiatives taken in the different countries to contain the pandemic.
The Authority commended the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, Champion of the Fight against COVID-19, who spared no effort to mobilise the required logistics and resources to support the regional dimension of the response to the pandemic.
It also applauded the three Ministerial Coordinating Committees on Health, Finance, Transport and Trade, as well as the ECOWAS Commission and the WAHO for the ongoing efforts to implement the decisions of the Niamey Summit, particularly regarding the availability of COVID-19 vaccines for the region, against the background of the outbreak of a new COVID-19 wave in the ECOWAS region.
It also commended the quality of the 2020 annual reports of the ECOWAS Commission and the 45th Ordinary Meeting of ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council and the 85th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers and the relevant recommendations.
“The Authority, after deliberations, endorsed the main recommendations contained in the different reports,” it said.
On the economic activities in ECOWAS in 2020, The Authority said it took note of the unfavourable development of economic activities in ECOWAS in 2020, which would be characterised by a 1.7% decline in real GDP, following a 3.9% real growth in 2019, as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and urged Member States to accelerate and step up the implementation of measures to combat COVID19 and revive their economies.
On the creation a monetary union, The Authority took note of the deterioration in ECOWAS macroeconomic convergence situation in 2020, as a result of measures taken by Member States to combat COVID-19 and revive their economies.
“In view of the expected impact of the second wave of the pandemic on the macroeconomic convergence situation in 2021, the Summit decides to grant Member States a waiver with regard to meeting the macroeconomic convergence criteria in 2021,” the communique said.
The Authority commended the Ministerial Committee on the Single Currency Programme for the steps taken to implement the decisions of its 57th Ordinary Session held on 7 September 2020, in Niamey, Niger and instructed the Commission, in conjunction with the West African Monetary Agency (WAMA), West African Monetary Institute (WAMI), UEMOA Commission and Community Central Banks, to submit to its next Ordinary Session: the draft of the new Convergence and Macroeconomic Stability Pact among ECOWAS Member States, with 1st January 2022 as the start date of the convergence phase; and the new roadmap for the ECOWAS Single Currency Programme.
On the status of implementation of the ECOWAS payment and settlements system, The Authority instructed the Commission, in conjunction with Community Central Banks and the West African Monetary Agency, to expedite work for the rapid interconnection of ECOWAS payments systems and submit a report at the next Ordinary Session in June, 2021.
According to the communique, the aim is to establish a multilateral mechanism whereby national currencies will be used for the payment and settlement of intra-Community transactions.
On the African Continental Free Trade Area, The Authority welcomed the entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, on January 1, 2021 and the ratification of the agreement by 12 out of the 15 ECOWAS Member States.