According to the President, the West Africa has a remarkably huge market and potentials for future growth that the region can take advantage of to speed up its progress. “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 made these comments when he delivered a speech on the occasion of the 42nd Anniversary of ECOWAS Day, at an event organised by the Centre for Regional Integration Africa, at the Best Western Premier Hotel, in Accra yesterday.
Citing the processes which led to the establishment of the European Union (EU), the President noted that the EU, which has one currency and the free movement of goods, services and people across 27 countries, has a nominal GDP of 16.5 trillion US dollars, making it the second largest economy by GDP in the world.
“The overall effect is to make Europe a much stronger economic and political player on the world stage”
He noted that in spite of the fact that the vision for the formation of the Economic Community of West African States was upon a clear recognition that the countries in the West African Sub Region would be more effective economically and have a stronger political voice if it came together, process made towards achieving this goal has been slow.
He bemoaned the fact that while the formation of the European Union is central to the lives of Europeans, ECOWAS on the other hand, is somewhat peripheral to the lives of most West Africans. This, he said, “is not for the lack of plans or rules and regulations, it is simply the political will to make integration real has been less evident than in Europe”.
He said unless the region makes concerted efforts at solving its energy problems by speeding its integration process, “it cannot meaningfully embark on the industrialisation process that is critical to our ability to transform our economies”
He noted that in the books, ECOWAS seem to have the right policies but those policies needs to be translated into effective instruments that would have positive impacts on the lives of people in the West African Region.
“The implementation of these plans has been left to well-meaning technocrats and bureaucrats. However, well-meaning they may be, our region cannot make the bold transforming changes it needs to make without visionary political leadership”.
He stressed the need for a leadership that is focused on the region and not on individual countries to move the region forward.
“The European Union took off because of the political leadership of France and Germany decided to make it work. Once the political will is eminent, we can then work together to make ECOWAS a true regional market”
He said although the region has chalked some progress over the years “we still have a long way to go”.
He added that the role of the citizenry in the regional integration processes is crucial “it is important that integration process becomes part and parcel of national conversation in each of the member countries of ECOWAS and not as a matter to be dealt with by the officials of Heads of States and meetings and proceeding of ECOWAS.”
The President further stated that it is 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.
According to President Akufo-Addo, his programme for Ghana’s social and economic transformation, spurred on by a monetary policy that will 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.