African regional block, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, biometric identity card scheme will take off in 2016.
The scheme, which is a significant milestone towards the attainment of regional integration, is aimed at ensuring unfettered movement of citizens from member nations of the Community.
Members said in the communiqué at the end of the 73rd Ordinary session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers that the new document would replace the Travel Certificate currently in use.
The new biometric identity card is to circulate alongside the National Identity Card in each member states for a period of time until the institutionalization of the new document within a specified timeframe.
After considering the report of regional Heads of Immigration Services on the use of the ECOWAS National biometric identity card, the ministers endorsed the new document for the approval of the Authority of Heads of States and Governments scheduled for Abuja on Monday.
The Council also considered the 2014 Annual Report, with ECOWAS Commission’s President, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, providing positive growth forecasts on economic activity at 5.3 per cent in 2014 compared to 4.8 per cent in 2013.
The President’s report noted that ECOWAS region had continued to be Africa’s most dynamic regional Economic Community, with expected growth rate of 6.3 per cent in 2014, with Côte d’Ivoire expected to record the highest growth rate of 9.1 per cent in the region.
On the proposed Customs Union, the ECOWAS President informed the Council that necessary activities had been completed for the implementation of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) in all member states from January 1, 2015.
The finalization of the text on Community Customs Code and the adoption of the Steering and Monitoring Mechanism for ECOWAS’ Fiscal Transition programme are also scheduled for the same date.
The Council also considered, among others, the interim report of the Financial Controller, with some recommendations and decisions, including the need for improved implementation of the protocol on the Community levy, to enable the organization discharge its financial functions more effectively.
Also considered by Council, were the report of the 16th Session of the ECOWAS Administration and Finance Committee, the Phase 1 report of the study on institutional reforms as well as the reports of the ECOWAS Finance Ministers on the CET and the meeting of ministers in charge of higher education and scientific research.
Other reports examined by the ministers were those of the extraordinary meeting of ECOWAS Health Ministers, the Regional Strategic Framework for Private Sector development, as well as the Memorandum on Guaranteed Investment Mechanism.