President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has urged his counterparts in the West African sub-region to address speedily the political impediments to regional integration in order to make ECOWAS a more effective economic bloc.
He said ECOWAS leaders ought to demonstrate the political will for a faster integration process as this would promote the envisioned economic cooperation among member states to engender solidarity and collective self-reliance in the Community and make the region more prosperous for its peoples.
President Akufo-Addo made this known on Tuesday when he delivered a speech at the 42nd Anniversary of ECOWAS Day organised by the Centre for Regional Integration Africa in Accra.
Citing the processes which led to the establishment of the European Union (EU), President Akufo-Addo noted that the EU, which has one currency and the free movement of goods, services and people across twenty-seven countries, has a nominal GDP of 16.5 trillion US dollars making it the second largest economy by GDP in the world.
“The single currency, the EURO, has increased efficiency, lowered the cost of doing business and improved transparency in pricing. The overall effect has been to make Europe a much stronger economic and political player on the world stage,” he said.
He said unlike the European Union which had today become central to the lives of Europeans, the ECOWAS was “somewhat peripheral to the lives of most West Africans.”
President Akufo-Addo said: “It is not for the lack of plans or even rules and regulations. It is simply that the political will to make integration real has been less evident than in Europe.”
He cited the non-implementation of policies such as the introduction of a common currency, a Common Agricultural Policy, the West African Power Pool, and a Common Tariff Regime among other things as examples of good policies which are yet to be put into effect despite being on the books of ECOWAS.
“The European Union took off because the political leadership of France and Germany decided to make it work. Once the political will is evident, we can then work together to make ECOWAS a true regional market,” he said.
However, the President expressed confidence that the sub-region would take its pride of place with the emergence of new leaders, all of whom have been democratically elected, and are committed to governing their nationals according to the rule of law, respect for individual liberties and human rights, and the principles of democratic accountability.
He said it was heartwarming that the new crop of West African leaders “had a determination to free their peoples from a mindset of dependence, aid, charity and hand-outs; bent on mobilising Africa’s own immeasurable resources to resolve Africa’s problems; and recognise the connectedness of their peoples and economies to those of their neighbours.
President Akufo-Addo stated, however, that it was important that the integration process becomes part and parcel of the national conversation in each of the member countries of ECOWAS, and not just a matter to be dealt with by the officials and Heads of States at meetings and proceedings of ECOWAS.
“The populations of West Africa must, therefore, understand the advantages and the disadvantages of subscribing to a regional grouping as their support for or against the process of regional integration will ultimately determine the level of its success,” he said.
The President said it was in the economic interest of Ghana and her enterprises for the process of West African integration to succeed and become real as soon as possible.
He said his programme for Ghana’s social and economic transformation, spurred on by a monetary policy that would stabilise the currency and reduce significantly the cost of borrowing, the introduction of a raft of tax cuts, and the shifting of the focus of Ghana’s economy from taxation to production, should make Ghanaian businesses competitive in West Africa, Africa and beyond.
“As the empowered Ghanaian businesses become stronger and more successful, they will need bigger markets. West Africa has a market of 350 million, which will expand to 500 million people in 20 years. This means that a genuine regional market in West Africa should be in our economic interest, for it will present immense opportunities to bring prosperity to the peoples in our region with hard work, creativity and enterprise. The time for West African integration is now,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo noted that a functioning and common regional market in ECOWAS had to be a very fundamental objective of Ghanaians and, indeed, of all the peoples and governments of West Africa, and reiterated, once again, his commitment to do whatever he could to strengthen the ECOWAS.
The President maintained that “when we think of West Africa and Africa before our individual countries, we are not just being pan-Africanists, we are being true nationalists, because what makes West Africa better will make each of our individual countries better and more prosperous.”
He, thus, urged all who believed in regional integration to give enthusiastic support to Community decisions and inspire confidence and integrity in the structural organs of ECOWAS.
“Our people deserve no less, and the dream of prosperity will be within our grasp,” he added.