Last week by this time, military men in Guinea had carried out a coup d’etat to depose Alpha Conde who had reportedly just changed the country’s constitution that allowed him to run for the office of the president for the third time.
This, among other issues in the country, was used as an excuse by the military to carry out the September 5 coup.
Days after the coup occurred, the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had held an emergency virtual session during which they suspended Guinea from the community.
When the suspension was announced, people on social media started bashing ECOWAS for being reactive and never taking action before the coups occur. Some even went as far as claiming ECOWAS only benefits the political elites and the people it has employed.
The idea of ECOWAS is to promote the economic integration of all the now 15 members states in the various fields of trade they engage in.
However, for a lot of young people, the idea of ECOWAS seems beyond their reach and thus the institution becomes something they are not interested in.
Except of course, when they take certain decisions that cause a public relations issue for the institution, just as its recent decision to suspend Guinea from the community.
Nonetheless, we have found that there are various avenues for young people who call West Africa home, to have ECOWAS benefit them and take advantage of the opportunities that ECOWAS provides.
These include areas of career development, small scale business or startups and pleasure.
Young West Africans who are hoping to secure a career with international organizations such as the UN, World Food Programme, World Bank, IMF, World Trade Organization, and others can advantage of ECOWAS and use it as a stepping stone. A means to an end – sort of. ECOWAS has various opportunities such as the ECOWAS Volunteers Programme. Participating in such programmes looks well on your CV and gives you some amount of international experience that always helps with your applications to the bodies mentioned earlier.
When a young person starts a business, he or she is looking to expand and gain some level of global prominence in their chosen industry. One good way to do that, if you are West African, is to ride on the coattails of the ECOWAS. Of course, for ECOWAS, the entire market of West Africa is going to be integrated such that you could be in Sunyani and seamlessly trade with someone in Port Harcourt. One way to ensure that your startup, small or medium-scale enterprise can effectively take advantage of this is to participate in the ECOWAS Business Incubator Support programme. For a young entrepreneur, getting the basics to even trade outside your home country can be tough that is why this is very helpful.
This might be a given, but we are going to share it anyway, just in case you need a reminder or do not know about it. If you hold a passport of any of the 15 ECOWAS member states, you can travel to any other ECOWAS country without a visa. Yes, if you have the passport, just book your flight, of course, you need to have your yellow fever card, and then viola… Cape Verde has amazing beaches, Lagos has a vibrant nightlife, Accra is your ultimate place to hang out day or night. If you are just graduating uni, completing National Service or you just want to get the experience of travelling across borders, especially by air, then take advantage of your passport that gets you entry into any ECOWAS country.
When it comes to getting ECOWAS to take political action, please do not put your hopes on them that’s because they are made up of the same Presidents in our various countries we have issues with. However, once in a while, they fund a programme that you can definitely take advantage for your own gain. Don’t let it go.
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