Senior officials from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) begin talks in China this week to find investors in agriculture, industry and roads and other physical infrastructure.
The regional body is trying “to stimulate development and through that we [will]… pull ourselves out of poverty,” said Sonny Ugoh, ECOWAS communications director.
His comments came after a delegation of ECOWAS officials arrived in China Monday. The talks are expected to involve both public and private investors.
The delegation includes a number of officials of the ECOWAS commission, or executive board, including its president, Ambassador James Gbeho and other senior members.
The Chinese and ECOWAS delegations are scheduled to hold exploratory discussions with the Export-Import Bank of China and the China Development Bank on possible support for infrastructure projects crucial to the economic integration of West African states.
Ghana and Sierra Leone are asking the Export-Import Bank of China for $320 million for the construction of a highway network stretching across West Africa.
Sierra Leone has submitted two requests for funding: $100 million for the first phase of a road along the border with Guinea passing through the towns of Makeni, Kamakwei and Fintonia, and $105 million for a new terminal at Freetown’s Lunghi airport that will include a presidential lounge and related infrastructure.
Some groups have expressed concern that increased investment will only benefit the Asian giants and African elites. They say it could worsen the plight of the poor, a concern Ugoh dismissed as unfounded. He insisted that by building infrastructure, the projects will boost economic activity in member countries.
“Nobody should feel that there is a reason to be suspicious about the Chinese, certainly not. What is important is [that] we are dealing with our partners because we need their support to be able to develop,” said Ugoh.
He said ECOWAS will continue to seek other avenues to improve the lives of its citizens.