Ivorian Jean-Claude Brou takes over from Beninois Marcel De Souza at the helm of the ECOWAS Commission
Having served for almost two years as President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Marcel de Souza handed over to his successor, Jean-Claude Brou, on Thursday 1 March 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria.
The handover ceremony was attended by Ally Coulibaly, Minister of African Integration and Ivorians Abroad, Mrs Khadija Bukar Ibrahim, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to Nigeria and ECOWAS, alongside staff and heads of Community Institutions.
In his farewell address, Mr de Souza outlined the significant progress made by the outgoing Commission. He cited in particular the ongoing ECOWAS institutional reform; renewed commitments of Member States to the creation of the ECOWAS single currency by 2020; and plans for the construction of a new Commission headquarters.
He also recalled the establishment of a regional television station; successful conduct of presidential elections in 2016 and 2017 in six ECOWAS Member States; launch of the West African Police Information System (WAPIS) in 2017; and the transformation of the early warning system into a tool for human security and natural disaster monitoring.
The outgoing President also highlighted the enhanced harmonisation of macroeconomic and monetary integration policies; signing of the Association Agreement with Mauritania; repayment of debts and improved solvency, credibility and corporate image of the Commission; adoption and implementation of the ECOWAS Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct; as well as cost containment measures.
This notwithstanding, Mr de Souza underscored the major challenges to be addressed, in particular late payment of Community Levy by Member States; non-compliance with decisions of the ECOWAS Court of Justice; no solution to the political crisis in Guinea-Bissau; strengthening of regional integration; sustaining the gains made in managing staff welfare and cost control measures; operationalisation of Joint Border Posts in Noépé between Ghana and Togo, and Sèmé between Benin and Nigeria.
Taking his turn, the new President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, congratulated and thanked his predecessor for the impressive manner in which he led the regional organisation.
“Your actions further lifted and raised ECOWAS’ flag high. Your commitment to hard work is not a secret to anyone, especially me. I would like to extend my congratulations to all outgoing Commissioners and statutory officers. You can leave with head held high for a job well done that will forever be remembered by the entire Community,” Mr Brou said.
He welcomed the progress made by ECOWAS at political, institutional, security, economic and social levels and pledged to further strengthen them.
For Jean-Claude Brou, the challenges to be addressed include Member States’ expectations in the areas of economic, social and human development; synergy of actions for greater efficiency in their implementation; sound business environment to support and finance infrastructure, industrialisation, agriculture and the economy.
Prudent operational and financial management of ECOWAS resources; improved implementation of the Community Levy mechanism to ensure the financial stability of Community Institutions; performance of ECOWAS staff are further challenges to be addressed, he stated.
He availed himself of the opportunity to express his gratitude to ECOWAS Heads of State for approving his appointment for the next four years, in particular Faure Gnassingbé, Togolese Head of State and Chairman of the regional organisation, Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerian President, and Alassane Ouattara, Ivorian Head of State, as well as Prof. Robert Dussey, Togolese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration,.
A native of Cote d’Ivoire, the new ECOWAS Commission President holds a PhD in Economics, an MBA in Finance from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, United States of America and, a Master’s degree from the National University of Cote d’Ivoire.
He began his professional career at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1982, first as a Senior Economist and served mainly in Senegal from 1990 to 1991 as IMF Resident Representative.
Until his appointment as President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Brou served as Minister of Industry and Mines in Cote d’Ivoire since November 2012. Prior to that, he was Economic and Financial Adviser to the Prime Minister of Cote d’Ivoire from 1991 to 1995. In 1996, he was named Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, a position he held until 1999. He was also Chairman of the Privatisation Committee.
Jean Claude Brou also worked for eight years at the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), where he was successively Director of International Relations and Director of Studies until 2005. He thereafter headed the Department of Economic and Currency Studies before being appointed Special Adviser and Comptroller General from 2007 to 2008.
He was also the World Bank’s Resident Representative for Chad from 2010 to 2013, and Consultant to the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Jean-Claude Brou is married with two children.
Contribution to the ECOWAS integration process: Review of the transitional mandate
by Marcel de Souza, President of the ECOWAS Commission
Having served for almost two years as President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), I would like to provide a brief overview of the major initiatives undertaken and progress made with the support of all Community statutory officers, as well as commitment of all staff of Community Institutions. I should therefore like to express my gratitude and sincere appreciation for the outstanding support I enjoyed from every single one of them.
This report is structured in three (3) parts. It, first, presents an overview of the situation at the time we assumed office. It then highlights major achievements in the implementation of regional integration programmes, service delivery and working conditions. Lastly, it outlines challenges and prospects for strengthening regional integration.
On assumption of office, we noted that the Community was faced with multiple and multifaceted challenges, in particular:
increased risk of non-payment of salaries to staff members;
cash-flow problems and huge arrears towards suppliers and service providers;
non-rationalization in the use of energy resulting in huge running costs;
inadequate working tools for staff;
slow progress in the institutional reform process;
lack of progress in a number of Community programmes;
high number of disputes with staff;
poor internal control;
failure to audit the 2013, 2014 and 2015 financial statements;
Lack of predictability in the rotation of statutory positions.
Implementation of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme
During the period under review, the Task Force on the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme, set up by ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, became operational and was able to field advocacy missions to thirteen (13) Member States. It observed that obstacles to free movement and right of residence and establishment persist in Member States. It therefore proposed strong measures to political authorities to remove these obstacles as soon as possible.
Furthermore, awareness and advocacy activities were carried out through the production of a short hidden-camera film entitled “ECOWAS Taxi”. The short film focused on harassment along borders and on roads in Member States. In addition, the Commission provided funding for the film “Borders”, produced by a Community citizen, who won an award at FESPACO 2017. “ECOWAS Taxi” and “Borders” highlight practices contrary to the rules and principles adopted by Member States of the Community.
It should be pointed out that during periodic meetings with ECOWAS Member States’ Ambassadors accredited to the Commission, I consistently emphasized the need for all Member States to ratify the various Protocols relating to free movement of persons and goods and right of residence and establishment. More specifically, I carried out actions in support of Cabo Verde to ensure that this founding ECOWAS Member State, sees itself as an integral part of the region. In that regard, the parties mutually agreed to open diplomatic missions in Abuja and Praia.
Implementation of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff
To assist Member States in the implementation of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (ECOWAS CET), which entered into force on 1 January 2015, necessary support was provided to the two countries (Cabo Verde and Sierra Leone) that had technical challenges. Furthermore, strong measures were taken to ensure the smooth implementation of the Common External Tariff and adoption of the Community Customs Code.
Adoption of the ECOWAS Customs Code
The objective of the ECOWAS Customs Code is to ensure harmonisation of customs legislation and operations in the region, and facilitate trade in accordance with the requirements for the smooth functioning of a customs union. The Customs Code was reviewed and adopted at the meeting of Member States’ Finance Ministers held in Abuja, Nigeria on 24 November 2017. The Customs Code will be complemented by a manual of procedures to ensure its proper implementation by Member States.
Challenges and prospects
Lack of Community spirit in the region
The lack of Community spirit among Member States is very obvious and constitutes a barrier to integration and solidarity. It is therefore necessary to rebuild this spirit and ensure that regional policies are adopted and that national laws align with Community policies. Similarly, political interference has a significant impact on the Commission’s efficiency, in particular with regard to purely internal management decisions.
Delay in remittance of Community Levy
Member States should continue to be sensitised on the importance of the Community Levy for programme implementation. However, cases of wasted resources and mismanagement should be discouraged in the strictest terms.
Non-compliance with decisions of the Court of Justice
Judgements of the Community Court of Justice are neither complied with nor enforced. There is a need for in-depth reflection on the issue. It is recommended that sanctions should be considered as ultimate measures for the smooth functioning of the Community.
No solution to the political crisis in Guinea Bissau
ECOWAS is very active in Guinea-Bissau and should continue its efforts for the resolution of the political crisis. The key to resolving the impasse is the implementation of the Bissau and Conakry Agreements. Sanctions imposed recently by the Authority of Heads of State and Government constitute a means of exerting pressure to end the crisis. It should be pointed out that the cost of maintaining ECOWAS troops in the country is a huge burden for the Community. A speedy resolution of the crisis is therefore strongly encouraged to mitigate the risks of destabilization throughout the sub-region.
Need for enhanced regional integration
With a view to consolidating Community spirit and encouraging people’s commitment to Community life, it is recommended that each Member State should provide a land for the construction of an ECOWAS House. Efforts being made to transform the radio provided by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) into an ECOWAS Communications Agency should be sustained.
“Living Together” and inter-religious dialogue are major concerns to be addressed through communication.