Umaro Sissoko Embalo, President of Guinea-Bissau, was unanimously elected Chair of the ECOWAS Body of Heads of State and Government.
He takes over from the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who has served the Commonwealth for two terms since 2020.
Embalo will have to contend with the difficult political and security situation his predecessor faced, as well as rising food prices in the region caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The new president will also have the challenge of mobilizing the bloc to restore constitutional rule to the military-ruled trio of Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali.
President Akufo-Addo is handing over the position with the legacy of providing strong leadership that helped the region deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
Another feather in his cap was his drive to uphold democratic ideals in the region and his outspoken opposition to the overthrow of constitutionally elected governments.
He is widely recognized for rallying his colleagues to meet the terms of their mandates.
President Akufo-Addo, who is chairing his last meeting of the Authority, urged the bloc to adopt a coordinated approach to address security concerns in the region.
He also urged his colleagues to commit to the implementation of the regional counter-terrorism action plan to curb the threat of terrorism.
“Our resolve in this regard must be stronger than ever, and equally unwavering must be our resolve to maintain the stability of our region and its member states,” he said.
The president also called on member states to focus more on agriculture so the region can achieve food sufficiency amid rising food prices caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
He called on member states to remain vigilant against the COVID-19 pandemic as “the threat is still there”, pointing out that the region cannot afford another blow from the pandemic when it is currently grappling with serious and destabilizing political threats and security threats.
“The management of this pandemic illustrates our organization’s ability to pool its energies to confront a significant common threat. However, we must continue to be vigilant as COVID-19 is still around,” he said.