Address the opening ceremony of the 16th ECOWAS Administration and Finance Committee (AFC) on Monday 1st December 2014, the president described the Community levy (0.5% duty charged by Member States on imports from outside the region) as the backbone of funding for the organisation’s programmes and activities. “I appeal to all Member States, once again, to systematically implement the Community Levy protocol and mechanisms in order to provide the Community with the necessary funds to enable it meet its constantly increasing financial obligations,” he told the gathering of representatives of Member States, officials of the Commission and other Community Institutions. The ECOWAS chief said the aim of the 2015 budget is to sustain efforts made by the organization under the reform and integration programme. The meeting, he explained, will “enable us report on the results achieved in the implementation of major tasks assigned to us for the year drawing to a close, inform our stakeholders of the progress made, and also present the plans and programmes we have developed for the coming year.” Although the session is devoted mainly to the budget, it is taking place against the backdrop of major developments, including the expansion of the Commission from nine to 15 members, changes in the leadership of WAHO and GIABA, and the appointment of new judges to the Community Court of Justice. “So far, it has been a rather challenging year for the Commission because we have had to make special efforts to overcome the serious challenges caused by the Ebola crisis in the region, rearrange the programmes to take due account of the six new Commissioners, and expand the operations despite serious funding challenges caused by the Community Levy,” the president said. He also pointed out that it had become necessary to pursue efforts to overcome security challenges in the region, coordinate negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, and work on the institutional reform project to revitalize the Commission and the other Community institutions. On the transformation of the Community Parliament into an institution with full legislative powers, President Ouédraogo recalled that the 72nd Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers had asked the Parliament to make concrete proposals, including on the financial implications of the proposed change and the Parliament’s relationship with similar institutions, for a final decision to be taken. As one of the statutory bodies at the heart of the regional integration process, he called on the AFC members to consider the budget proposals for the next financial year and review the recommendations with diligence. He further urged them to consider all items brought to their attention with the usual wisdom and interest which they had always demonstrated over the years. The President also reiterated that the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) will come into force on 1st January 2015, saying: “this is a historic step towards deepening regional integration and creating a common market.” Mrs. Sena Siaw-Boateng, chair of the 16th AFC session and Head of ECOWAS National Unit, Ghana, welcomed participants and urged Member States to support the Commission and other community institutions in delivering on their mandates and promoting regional economic integration. The head of Commission’s clinic, Dr. Michael Nnoli, made a presentation on the health protocol adopted recently by the organization and also gave useful tips on the protection against Ebola.]]>