Thursday, August 27, 2009

Is West Africa Really Irrelevant to its Citizens?(1)

I am copying below a piece by Public Agenda newspaper of a book launch that took place two weeks ago. I was also asked to cover that launch. I want to post the "official" version from a paper here, noting that the initial comments by "stakeholders" were by me, but the paper did not bother to seek my views as they probably think I'm small fry:-):


Public Agenda (Accra)
West Africa: Ecowas Integration Remains Irrelevant to Citizens

Ebenezer Hanson

14 August 2009

Stakeholders and policy makers have asked actors of ECOWAS to make the issue of subregional integration relevant to nationals of member countries by constantly engaging them in activities on the subject.

According to them, the issue of integration appears to be an abstract concept which exists in the minds of heads of states and governments, and public officials and has no bearing whatsoever on the lives of West African nationals.

These were some of the concerns raised during the discussion session of the launch of a book, "Nation- States and the Challenges of Regional Integration in West Africa: the Case of Ghana", edited by Prof. Kwame A. Ninsin, Scholar- in- residence at the Institute for Democratic Governance(IDEG) , last Wednesday.

"How many Ghanaians know of ECOWAS, they have no feel of it? ECOWAS remains at the aspect abstractions. We need to find out the views of Ghanaians on the subject," one participant said. [that was yours truly! more elaboration later!]

Prof. S.K.B Asante, a consummate diplomat with enormous experience on regional integration, regretted that the Ministry of Regional Integration and NEPAD created as an independent ministry in 2000 was later subsumed under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2005.

"It was wrong for the two ministries to be merged as after the merger issues of Foreign Affairs overshadowed those of ECOWAS and regional integration".

He disclosed that many other African countries took a cue from Ghana's Ministry of Regional Integration whose establishment was regarded as landmark arrangement for the driving of ECOWAS agenda.

"After the merger I wondered whether officials from the Foreign Ministry who attended ECOWAS meetings after their return briefed the relevant institutions," said the Prof.

President of the Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Wilson Attah Krofah, stressed that an integrated ECOWAS will inure immensely to the benefit of the private sector as it will present a 250- million market to players in the industry. However, he bemoaned the non involvement of social actors such as entrepreneurs in the formulation of ECOWAS protocols. "Get private sector operators involved in the formulation of protocols so that their concerns could be addressed".

"Nation-States and the Challenges of Regional Integration in West Africa: The Case of Ghana", the brain child of IDEG and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is a 160-page featuring seven chapters authored by researchers, practitioners and policymakers. It discusses critical issues such as Implementing the ECOWAS Idea in Ghana: Taming the State, Empowering the People; Ghana and the politics of sub-Regional Integration; Regional Integration in West Africa; A single Currency for West African: Prospects and Challenges; Gender mainstreaming: National and Sub-regional policies of integration.

Others are, the paradox of West African Integration: Experiences, Perceptions and Notions of Integration among Ghanaians', Ghana's Agricultural Commodity Trade to ECOWAS: Implications and options for Regional Integration and the Language Factor in West Africa's Integration.

Reviewing the book, Dr. Vladimir Antwi- Danso of the Legon Centre for International Affairs, commended the depth of work by the authors. However, he lamented the omission of such relevant topics such as ECOWAS from the perspective of civil society, and ECOWAS and NEPAD.

He also disagreed with the conclusion drawn by one of the authors, Prof. Kwame Boafo-Arthur, that "Dr Kwame Nkrumah was opposed to integration schemes that posed a threat to the sovereignty of the newly independent African countries." Dr. Danso argues that Nkrumah's work towards integration was rather unparalleled during his era.

Dr, Abdul Lamin, Programme Specialist, Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO, revealed that his outfit initiated the project in 2005 and so far 10 books have been written in 10 different countries. He revealed that they hope to publish 17 books out of which 15 will focused on their respective countries.

He said UNESCO is committed to supporting Africa-led initiatives, as part of UNESCO's mid-term strategy "Since Africa, through the authority of the African Union and other statutory bodies have identified regional integration as major priority fro accelerating the continent's development, our role is to support the continent in these efforts..."

The Executive Director of IDEG, Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey, said there is a momentum building up about the integration of Africa both political and economic. He said the move is an exercise harking back to the great strides made by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

Prof. Kwame Karikari, who chaired the event, noted the rate of the integration process is erratic varying with different periods." Sometimes you begin to wonder whether we are integrating at all considering the frustration one goes through in an effort to acquire a visa to another African country".


Thoughts much appreciated!!!


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