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Leaders Warn Global Crisis Threatens Fight Against Poverty in West Africa

West African leaders say the global financial crisis could undermine their capacity to reduce poverty and sustain economic recovery in the world's most impoverished region.

In a communiqué at the end of its summit in Nigeria, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, warned that the reduction in foreign direct investment, remittances from migrant workers and a drop in commodity prices as a result of the global crisis are a major threat to fighting poverty in the region.

ECOWAS Commission President Mohammed Ibn Chambas said West Africa, which had seen improved economic performance in recent years, may witness a significant slow down in the short-run.

"After years of poor economic performance, West African economy began to witness improvement," said Chambas. "The regional GDP growth increased from 5.1 percent in 2006 to 5.6 percent in 2007. It was indeed projected to move up to 6.1 percent in 2008. However, due to the triple global crises, GDP growth rate in 2008 is now expected to drop to 5.1 percent, and it is likely to fall further to 4.7 percent in 2009."

Soaring prices for staples such as rice and millet, reflecting a global surge in the cost of major cereal and oil, triggered riots and protests across West Africa this year. The global financial crisis has made life even harder for West Africa's poor.

And as the region struggles with food shortages and humanitarian crises, drug trafficking is on the increase. Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua, who was elected to chair the
15-member bloc, says urgent action is needed to check the trend.

"The issue of drug trafficking deserves our sufficient attention because of its adverse consequences for democracy, peace, stability and economic development in the sub region. This is especially critical for those member states which are being used as transit routes," said Mr. Yar'Adua.

The one-day summit also discussed improving regional infrastructure.