Tuesday, December 20, 2011


To paraphrase the legendary Mark Twain, reports of my blog's death have been greatly exaggerated!

This blog--whether it is Trials & Tribulations of a Freshly-Arrived Denizen...of Ghana; Accra Pictures by Day & Night; or Critiquing Regionalism; et al--are very much alive. The silence is attributed to the usual end-of-year pandemonium and cacophony.

No doubt, they shall all be back in full swing in 2012!

Suffice-to-say, as the sun sets on 2011, I sincerely hope however and whichever way you arrived at this blog entry, you'll be touched by the spirit of Christmas and goodness in the air and make sure you and your family HAVE YOURSELVES a great and scintillating Christmas break.

May it sound, peaceful and stress-free!

Have a supremely enjoyable and wonderful Christmas -- till we meet again in January 2012!;-D

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Will the African Integration Revolution be Televised? (3)...especially when Africa is rising?

The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
Will the African Integration Revolution be Televised? (3)...especially when Africa is rising?
By E.K.Bensah Jr

Even if the cover story of the latest Economist is somewhat of a redemption of Africa's “loneliness” on the global stage, truth is Africa did not need that kind of endorsement before realising it is going places. Admittedly, the apology-of-sorts by the magazine for calling Africa “a hopeless continent” back in 2001 can only serve to vindicate the efforts made by the eight AU-recognised regional economic communities populating the continent.

Truth be told, it is almost hard to believe that it was only two weeks ago that the African Union rejected the Economic Partnership Agreements, telling the EU that their priority is regional integration. It is also hard to believe that it is only four years ago that the so-called Grand Debate on Union Government took place in Accra when Ghana played host to the AU Assembly of Heads of State. I mention this only to remind us that when we couple that July 2007 meeting with the ECOWAS Ministerial Monitoring Committee meeting and 7th Session of the Conference of African Trade Ministers in early December, it is easy for us to speculate that by some twist of fate, Ghana continues to play host to tectonic changes on the African integration landscape.

Elsewhere, this would have created the imperative among the populace to be better-sensitized to the developments in the African Union and regional economic communities. Seeing as we depend a lot on hope in this country, it seems we can only hope that more of the Ghanaian media looks beyond reporting on politics excessively.

As I write this, the UN Economic Commission for Africa(UNECA) is hosting a meeting in the home of the AU for the 2nd African Union Conference of Ministers Responsible for Mineral Resources Development.

According to a press release from the UNECA, “a key premise of the AMV is that mining should become a catalyst for broad-based sustainable development. The Mining Vision argues that until now mining has been run as an enclave activity, meaning that the economic and social linkages within Africa itself have not been as strong as they should be.”

Secondly, according to the AMV, African governments have “focused too much on getting revenue from mining and not enough on using the industry as a catalyst for development.” Going forward, the industry has to do much more to encourage enterprises “develop around mining centres.”

In fact, one of the major outcomes of the Conference is to launch a new major report, “Minerals and Africa’s Development” that was drafted by an expert technical task force – the International Study Group, which includes the Accra-based Third World Network-Africa – established under the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

The UNECA release states that “the Report reviews current mineral regimes across Africa and against this background sets out the policy implications for implementing the Africa Mining Vision. The main recommendations of the report, and the Vision itself, have formed the basis for an action plan which will be agreed at the Conference. The plan is expected to form the basis for implementing the vision.”

This significant development is consistent with the “Productive Capacity Cluster” of the “Action Plan for boosting intra-African trade” I touched on in the first part of this three-parter.

Simply put, the action plan pointed the finger of blame for Africa's woeful productive capacity on the low level of intra-African trade. The imperative, therefore, is to effectively implement initiatives like the African Mining Vision, which are considered essential for the enhancement of the productive capacities of African countries and for the boosting of intra-African trade. Regrettably, much of this momentous development seems to be taking place on the blind side of most of the African media!

When Africa rises, it's thanks to the people

As you may well know, all is not entirely lost—as exemplified by the relative success of two weeks ago when Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry had to, in effect, capitulate to her hostile intentions of forcing Ghana to sign an interim Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU. This might not have happened without a people-centred intervention, including a major statement launched by West African civil society, including the Accra-based Economic Justice Network.

In the “Joint Statement  by the West African Civil Society Platform on the Cotonou Agreement(POSCAO), Economic Justice Network of Ghana and the Secretariat of the Africa Trade Network…”, the statement included sections on “Unity for Development not EU Deadlines”; “Current contentious issues in the EPA Negotiations”; “ECOWAS CET”; “EPA Development Programme (PAPED)”; “ECOWAS Solidarity Fund”; “Programming Alternatives to the EPA”; and “West Africa, the EU and current development in the World Economy.”

Some of the demands include welcoming the initiative of Nigeria on the ECOWAS Common External Tariff rate to raise it from 35 to 50 percent, “collectively tak[ing] this as a point of departure for finalizing [West Africa’s] CET”; supporting the statement made by the ECOWAS’s Director of Trade “that a proper and binding PAPED” is a “precondition for an ECOWAS EPA and hold West African officials to this commitment.”. In addition, there is the call by West African civil society to “immediately establish its own Solidarity Fund to enable members absorb associated [costs] with the EPA in the short-term.”

Now while the EPAs are not common currency in the discourse of Ghana’s national development, it is conceivable that the statement offered a degree of policy space even for West African diplomats to use the sliver of opportunity to engage civil society in a way that might not have been possible a decade ago when civil society agitations were in their infancy.

In conclusion, we can draw our own conclusions as to whether Africa is on the cusp of significant and palpable change. I will not lie to you and pretend I feel it isn’t. There is enough happening around the African Union—from its celebration of its tenth year in September 2012; and its AU summit in January on boosting intra-African trade—for one to be conceivably excited over prospects for growth and economic emancipation. Africa has been rising a long time – just that it was not being articulated as strongly as now. In between the trough and crests of structural adjustment and Breton Woods prescriptions lay buried an African Integration narrative that is now asserting itself. Africa, arise!

In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" (http://www.critiquing-regionalism.org). Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on ekbensah@ekbensah.net / Mobile: +233-268.687.653.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

AFRICA must Stop SOUTH AFRICA from enlisting EU help to get top AU position in 2012

Dear friend,

I am only a proud AU-frican citizen, but I am profoundly disturbed to read that the EU's top boss Baroness Ashton is ready to support South Africa to replace Gabon's Jean Ping in 2012. After the SOUTH AFRICA-NIGERIA duplicity and confusion at the Security Council in 2011 over Cote d'Ivoire, why must Africa sit back and watch the Africa's biggest economy to curry favour with the EU, which is going through its own internal crisis with the EUROZONE, just so that it can pave the way for further support for a permanent position at the UN Security Council?

Read the story below, and make your own judgement as to whether Jean Ping should be offered a UN position...or if it is to be SOUTH AFRICA, should it not be someone like Mbeki?

"Ashton should rather send Zuma to the top UN job, or challenge SA to put Mbeki up at the AU post!!"


from: http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=160546

EU heavyweight backs Dlamini-Zuma for AU post

The endorsement will boost SA's campaign to have Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma replace Jean Ping as the next African Union Commissioner but it is likely to infuriate France
Published: 2011/12/07 06:44:31 AM

EUROPEAN Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is campaigning in Africa to have Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma appointed as the next African Union (AU) Commissioner, according to a senior government official.

This endorsement will boost SA's campaign to have her replace Jean Ping. But it is likely to infuriate France, which favours Mr Ping for a second five-year term.

Lady Ashton agreed to assist SA to convince the AU's heads of state, especially in west Africa, to have Mr Ping withdraw his candidature, paving the way for Ms Dlamini-Zuma to be elected uncontested, said the official, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

In return for Mr Ping's withdrawal, the EU would ensure he was "rewarded with a suitable and senior position" at the United Nations. "We met with Catherine Ashton in Perth on the sidelines (of the Commonwealth meeting in October) where she endorsed our plan for our candidate," the official said. "She supports SA's position to strengthen the AU, which is weak, ineffective and has poor administration and governance controls.

"Our strategy will neutralise France which is actively funding the re-election of Mr Ping, even though it is publicly denying it."

EU spokesman Frank Oberholzer said yesterday he was not aware of the Perth meeting. "The EU salutes democratic processes wherever it happens and would support whatever outcome the AU concludes," he said.

The French embassy would only refer to comments by Foreign Minister Alain Juppe during his visit to SA last month — that France had no interest in recolonising Africa.

Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela said yesterday he was not aware of any deal.

Mr Ping arrived in SA on Monday to attend the United Nations climate-change conference in Durban. His countryman, Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba, attended the conference yesterday.

A senior Gabonese official refused to shed light on Mr Ping's campaign. "We are in competition with SA on the AU position, but we are here in Durban to support SA to conclude a climate agreement."



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Will the African Integration Revolution be Televised (2), (or a Tale of Africa’s Zeitgeist!)

“The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
Will the African Integration Revolution be Televised (2), (or a Tale of Africa’s Zeitgeist!)
By E.K.Bensah Jr

After the indefatigable efforts of West African civil society organizations, including the Economic Justice Network, to stall and stop Ghana from signing an interim Economic Partnership Agreement(EPA) with the European Union, you could be forgiven for thinking the guard of African integration watchers might be let down. Truth be told, the stalling serves only as a reminder of Nkrumah’s call for eternal vigilance. That no less than the African Union has stated categorically that the EPAs are not “a priority” for Africa, but regional integration is, can only help vindicate all those who work assiduously every day towards the emancipation of Africa—be it in West Africa, or continentally.

Last week, I touched on three (out of five) major developments that might lend weight to the view that Africa’s about to take off in 2012. The first was the Africa Trade Forum, hosted by the UN Economic Commission in Africa; next was the Seventh Ordinary Session of Conference of African Trade Ministers that just concluded meetings in Accra on 3 December; third was the launching of the Least Developed Countries report in Geneva – at which I expressed disappointment that there was no coverage of it probably because Ghana is not an LDC.

The two remaining developments are the Second Congress of African Economists; and the ECOWAS Ministerial Monitoring Committee—and related activities by civil society—that concluded discussions in Accra on 1st December.

Second Congress of African Economists
If there is a second, then it surely means there was a first – and the First Congress took place in Nairobi, Kenya in July 2009. The theme was: “Towards the Creation of a Single African Currency: Review of the Creation of a Single African Currency: Which optimal Approach to be adopted to accelerate the creation of the unique continental currency?” Doubtless, a heavy topic, so it is little wonder the outcome document is more than 200 pages!

The Second Congress of African Economists took place from 24-26 November in the West African state of Cote d’ivoire. The theme is “Achieving strong and sustainable economic growth in Africa to curb unemployment and promote regional and continental integration dynamics.” Unbeknownst to many African Integration watchers, the main objective of this gathering is to provide a platform for Economists from Africa; the continent and the Diaspora to “come up with concrete solutions to integration and development challenges facing Africa.” Above all, the Congress promotes knowledge sharing; and provides clear recommendations “to assist African countries in reformulating their economic policies with a view to addressing current socio-economic challenges.”

The Abidjan Declaration is the final outcome statement from the Congress. Recommendations were made on the following: foreign direct investment and domestic resource mobilization as a tool for alleviating poverty and generating employment in Africa; Unemployment as a barrier to sustainable economic growth in Africa; Governance, institutional reform and the role of the private sector in boosting economic growth in Africa; Africa and the new development paradigm; Boosting intra-African trade; and Aid effectiveness.

On “foreign direct investment and domestic resource mobilization as a tool for alleviating poverty and generating employment in Africa”, the Congress recommends that Africa should agree on its own definition of poverty as well as an appropriate system of measurement; second, the AU should work with member states and RECs to “develop a comprehensive plan for the promotion of long-term investment and strategies for the creation and retention of labour in Africa.”

On “Unemployment as a barrier to sustainable economic growth in Africa”, the Congress includes “comprehensive strategies should be developed aimed at the transformation of Africa’s natural resource based economies into knowledge-based economies…”; second, there should be more investment in research and development; third, gender dimension should be reflected in employment policies.

As regards “Governance, institutional reform and the role of the private sector in boosting economic growth in Africa”, the recommendation includes “specific strategies on SME development” and how they should be led by African countries; the need to improve the competitiveness of African industries; as well as the need for member states to “implement financial sector reforms aimed at deepening the financial system…”

With respect to “Africa and the new development paradigm”, the Declaration states that “African countries should consider enhancing the use of the Human Development Index to complement GDP as a measure of development”; African countries ought to work towards implementing African-led development initiatives, such as NEPAD. Above all, and most importantly, the AU; RECs; and member states ought to “take all necessary measures to expedite the regional and continental integration process as a stepping-stone towards integration into the global economy through measures such as the implementation of the Minimum Integration Programme(MIP)”, which was the outcome of the Fourth Conference of African Ministers of Integration(COMAI IV) in Yaounde, Cameroon, in 2009. In addition, African countries should set their sights on outreach with the Diaspora and seek “to build alliances” with them to attain development.

On “Boosting intra-African trade”, the AU should be tasked to work with RECs and Pan-African institutions “to promote monetary and financial integration in Africa”; African countries ought to take steps to implement regional and sub-regional agreements on free movements of persons; goods; services; and capital; the AU and member states should support “cross-border infrastructure development programmes”, such as the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa(PIDA). Critical to all these ought to be the support given by the AU and its member states to boost intra-African trade and create a continental free trade area – as prescribed by the just-ended 7th ordinary session of African Trade ministers here in Accra.

If there is anything that has brought into sharp relief this year the need for the AU to seek alternatives sources of financing, then it must be the Libyan crisis. Although this does not feature in the Abidjan declaration, what does is the need for the AU and its member states to continue to seek alternatives to the conventional sources of Overseas Development Assistance(ODA); and the donor funding, which is often late and inadequate in any case.

Little wonder, therefore, that in the final point on “Aid effectiveness”, the Congress recommends how “Africa should explore innovative sources of finance, including domestic resource mobilization n and Diaspora bonds as a means of reducing dependence on aid.” Closely tied to this is the proposal for a monitoring and evaluation mechanism, which finds expression in an “annual reporting on the delivery and utilization of aid within member states as well as regional institutions such as RECs and the AU.”

If, like me, you can feel some sense of Zeitgeist of African Integration, then you’ll look out for next week when I conclude on the fifth development that will contribute to sending Africa off to better places in 2012.

In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" (http://www.critiquing-regionalism.org). Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on ekbensah@ekbensah.net / Mobile: +233-268.687.653.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Will the African Integration Revolution be Televised?

The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
Will the African Integration Revolution be Televised? (1)
By E.K.Bensah Jr

You would not know it if you saw it, but Africa’s at the cusp of historic change. If the month of November is anything to go by, you might think that Africa’s about to take off in 2012. Five major developments have conspired to remind us that the issue of regional integration and trade are very much at the forefront of the minds of policy-makers, civil society activists and citizens alike.

Africa Trade Forum
According to the website of the ATF, the “strategic objectiveof the inaugural Africa Trade Forum, ATF 2011is to promote and enhance multi-stakeholder policy dialogue and advocacy on trade issues in Africa, by mobilising all the different trade constituencies Africa and the world in general, to debate and exchange views on all the key issuesrelating to intra-African trade, and Africa’s trade with the rest of the world”. Additionally, the Executive Secretary of the UNECA was perhaps more instructive and insightful. In his opening speech, he touched upon the low performance of Africa’s trade performance at “international and regional levels”, going on to say that “the continent’s share of global trade remains low at about 3% and continues to be dominated by primary commodity exports.”

He also touches upon how intra-African trade is faring, saying that it is “just about 11% of total trade as compared to 72% in Europe and 52% in Asia.” He suggests that a solution is through “regional value chains, which have contributed to high intra-regional trade elsewhere, which in turn has helped firms in other parts of the world to be key players in global value chains.”

Another positive outcome finds expression in the forthcoming Economic Report on Africa2012, which shows “some regional economic communities have exceeded the average intra-African trade growth.” One example cited is that of intra-COMESA trade that is reported to have grown “by at least 35.4 percent between 2009 and 2010, rising from US$12.7 billion to $17.2 billion.”

Janneh further maintains that the Forum is “intended to deepen the dialogue on how these challenges can be best addressed including through sharing of best practices.” In this respect, the Heads of States and Governments from the Tripartite of COMESA-SADC-EAC have committed themselves to the establishment of an FTA by 2014 “that will be based not just on market integration, but that will seek shared benefits through industrialization and infrastructure development.” 

That the AU Assembly will in January 2012 focus its meeting on the discussion of boosting intra-African trade can only “contribute to the process of helping build consensus around some key areas.” In addition, the forthcoming Assessing Regional Integration in Africa V, (jointly published by the AUC and AfDB) “suggest that harmonization of RECs trade policies through a continental FTA would result to an additional US$34 billion in intra-African exports…” In short, he maintains, “if we do what is required, we can optimize intra-African trade.”

Seventh Ordinary Session of Conference of African Trade Ministers
 A second major development is that of the Conference of African Trade Ministers currently being held in Accra this week, and which ends on 3rdDecember. A quick perusal of the AU website reveals two major documents that make recommended reading – that of an “Action Plan for boosting Intra-African Trade” a ‘Draft Framework, Roadmap and Architecture for Fast-Tracking the Continental Free Trade Area(CFTA)”. In the interests of space, I will seek to summarise the major highlights of the action plan, which comprises no less than six(6) programme clusters—namely: Trade policy; Trade Facilitation; Productive Capacity; Trade-Related Infrastructure; Trade Finance; and Trade Information.

The primary objective of the TRADE POLICY cluster is to fast-track intra-African trade development. Some of the activities outlined include: mainstreaming of intra-African trade in national trade development strategies; boosting of intra-African trade in food products so that tariffs, non-tariff measures and quantitative restrictions on intra-African trade in food products are removed; promotion of “Buy in Africa” and “Made in Africa” goods, which ought to lead to increased trade in goods among member states.

The main objective of TRADE FACILITATION is to reduce the time it takes to move goods from one point to another by 50%. Activities include: reduction of road blocks; the harmonization and simplification of customs and transit procedures, documentation and regulations; and the establishment of an “Integrated Border Management”, which output is a harmonized and simplified set of customs procedures; standards; regulations and documentation.

The third cluster – the PRODUCTIVE CAPACITY cluster – is perhaps the most contentious – and not just because the Action Plan dedicates a longer explication of it! The Plan reports that “to a large extent…the inadequacy of productive capacity, especially in the dynamic sectors of global trade” has a lot to do with the low level of intra-African trade.  While Africa exports more than it imports of ores, “metals, precious stones and fuels”, the reverse is the case with manufactured goods, chemicals, machinery and transport.

In short, the necessity of the diversification of Africa’s economy and the enhancement of its productive capacity and competitiveness for meeting the challenges of sustainable economic growth and development has led the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU to adopt a number of initiatives.

These include the adoption of the Action Plan for Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa(AIDA), which is aimed at the enhancement of the continent’s industrial capacities and capabilities. In addition, there is the African Productive Capacity Initiative(APCI); the Action Plan for the Development of Science and Technology; and the Africa Technology and Innovation Initiative(ATII); the African Mining Vision; and the African AgriBusiness and Agro-industry Development Initiative(3ADI). The report maintains “the effective implementation of these initiatives is essential for the enhancement of the productive capacities of African countries and for the boosting of intra-African trade.”

Little wonder, then, that the main objective of this cluster is to create regional and continental value chains/complementarity, to increase local production/ trade in goods produced in Africa. Some of the programmes and activities scheduled include: the prioritization of the implementation of continentally-agreed programmes, such as AIDA; ATII; APCI; and 3ADI; the establishment of integrated and inter-connected trade information systems; and the establishment of Regional Centers of Excellence for technology development, adaptation and diffusion resulting in each regional economic community(REC) having its own regional centre.

The fourth cluster deals with TRADE-RELATED INFRASTRUCTURE, with its main objective being the development of innovative, legal, financial and other mechanisms for multi-country infrastructural development projects. Some of its programmes include: the prioritization of the implementation of the AU Programme for Infrastructural Development in Africa(PIDA); and  the enabling environment for private sector participation in the development of infrastructure.

Cluster number five—TRADE FINANCE—focuses on developing and strengthening African financial institutions and mechanisms to promote intra-African trade and investment. Programmes include: strengthening and enhancing the capacity of existing regional and continental financial institutions; improving payment systems so that cross-border payments are facilitated; and finally, enabling environment for financial service companies to supply export credit and guarantees.

The sixth and final cluster—TRADE INFORMATION—focuses on bridging the information gap so as to enhance opportunities for intra-African trade, with, among other things, the envisaging of the creation of inter-connected centers of trade information exchange; as well as the development of “innovative legal, financial and other mechanisms for multi-country infrastructure and industrial projects”.

All this notwithstanding, there is even better good news to help resolve the problem of Africa’s low level of trade – and that is with the establishment of CFTA, or a Continental Free Trade Area Architecture. This would include: a High-Level African Trade Committee; a Joint Conference of Trade/Finance Ministers; an African Trade Forum; African Business Council; Trade Observatory; and an African Court of Justice. AU policymakers envisage the CFTAA to be ready by 2017.

UNCTAD’s Least Developed Countries Report
The report was launched last week—sadly without much fanfare. First, Ghana is not a Least Developed Country, and secondly, LDCs rarely make the headlines these days. Nonetheless, the report came out with much interesting analysis, including an issue I touched on last week – that of the regional and sub-regional banks.

According to the report, regional monetary funds are “instrumental in avoiding uncontrolled exchange devaluations that may compromise the integration process.” The report maintains “it might be argued that a regional reserve pool would not work if an external shock affects the whole region.” Despite that, they continue to be “an important source of development finance for regional member countries.”

It was back in 2002 that the Monterrey Consensus of the International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) emphasized the crucial role regional and subregional banks can play “in serving the development needs of developing countries and countries with economies in transition.” Further, they can serve as “a vital source of knowledge and expertise on economic growth and development for their developing member countries.” Third, given the structure of regional ownership, regional development banks can facilitate a stronger voice to developing country borrowers, as “well as enhance regional ownership and control”. Fourth, they can be effective because they tend to govern more through informal peer pressure “rather than imposing conditionality.” Finally, “information asymmetries are smaller at the regional level, given the proximity as well as close economic and other ties.”

(to be continued…)
In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" (http://www.critiquing-regionalism.org ). Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on ekbensah@ekbensah.netekbensah@ekbensah.net  / Mobile: +233.268.687.653.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How Ecowas Can Help reduce Ghana's Dependency on Foreign Aid

“The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:

Aid-Exit Plan Found: Enter ECOWAS...

By E.K.Bensah Jr

Last week, the Business and Financial Times paper covered an all-important story entitled “Wanted:Aid-Exit Plan”.  In my view, it brought into sharp relief the absolute necessity by African countries of pursuing by any means necessary a more sub-regional path through ECOWAS.

The premise of the article was rooted in three points: first, given Ghana's graduation in November 2010 from low-income to lower-middle income status, it is likely to lose out concessional finance from the World Bank, “which has been the country's most important creditor for the past three decades”; second, after Ghana's recalibration of its GDP per capita to USD1,363, the country was “travelling the road” of losing “not just IDA funding, but other bilateral and multilateral assistance.” Finally, for Ghana to “build up its credibility”, it must—as per the findings of Western economists and consultants--”show fiscal restraint, maintain macroeconomic stability and demonstrate that it is capable of putting funds to productive use.”
All these points notwithstanding, the picture is too gloomy, and optimism can easily be found through ECOWAS. 

New Realities,Old opportunities
The bottom line is that cheap loans may have dried up, but through the Lome-based ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), Ghana can easily obtain funding to finance both its private and public sector initiatives.  

Formerly known as the ECOWAS Fund, EBID is the principal financial institution of ECOWAS. With its holding company operating through its two subsidiaries—the public-sector-focused ECOWAS Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the private-sector-led ECOWAS Regional Investment Bank (ERIB has), EBID remains the financing bank of NEPAD projects in the region. In so many ways, it is the European Investment Bank counterpart in the ECOWAS sub-region, and has been around since the inception of ECOWAS in 1975.

Observers of the sub-region believe EBID has, in many respects, been a trailblazer in the sub-region in the way it has maintained a consistent brief of fostering greater integration in the sub-region among its member states – especially in the light of the conflicts that mired the sub-region in the early nineties. So focused has it been in facilitating sub-regional integration that in 2004, in conjunction with the African Development Bank, it set up a Conflict Prevention Fund, which is indeed managed by EBID. 

Unbeknownst to many, EBID is the largest shareholder of the Ecobank group, which also has its headquarters in Lome. EBID’s subsidiary ERIB also has shares in the capital of the so-called “ECOMARINE”, which is a West African maritime transport company, while ERDF co-finances integration of electric networks of Niger; Benin; Togo; and Ghana., extending it towards Cote d’ivoire.

Simply put, ERIB—concentrating on promoting the private sector and commercial sub-sectors in the ECOWAS zone—grants medium and long-term loans for commercial projects in all sectors; conversely ERDF—specializing in the disbursement of funds to the public sector—finances basic economic infrastructure and poverty-alleviation projects. These include medium and long-term concessionary loans for basic infrastructure, as well as economic and social projects in member states.

Ghana and EBID
Ghana naturally has a relationship that is expressed through its relationship as a member of ECOWAS. More recently, though, EBID came closer to home in Ghana when in May this year, no less than the incumbent Minister of Finance Dr.Kwabena Duffour was elected Chairman of the governing board of the ECOWAS Bank for Development and Investment (EBID) at the end of the bank’s ninth ordinary session in Accra.
At the same meeting, Duffour said that in Ghana, EBID had financed private sector in the areas of hotel, infrastructure, engineering and social amenities. With regard to the public sector, EBID’s interventions in Ghana include electrification of 114 communities in the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions to the tune of $30 million; modernization of the headquarters of the Ghana national fire Service at the cost of $15 million.

In October, Ghana News Agency reported that EBID is negotiating with Chinese banks “to raise $1.5 billion to finance infrastructure projects in four French-speaking countries.” It further reported that in July this year, EBID signed a credit line of $150 million with India for various projects in member states. The Accra meeting was likely to also appoint a new president of the bank, as well as set new limits in authorized capital for the bank.

The meeting would conclude with Dr.Duffour himself saying that the meeting discussed strategies to make the institution “more relevant to West African economies in the face of the current financial crisis in Europe.”
Given these statements, it then beggars serious belief that any Ghanaian might feel that an “aid-exit plan” needs to be found. None needs finding. We already have it right here in the sub-region we like to call the ECOWAS zone.

Add to that the fact that ECOWAS is finalizing a Common External Tariff(CET) for its customs union, which would, in theory, give the sub-region some clout at the World Trade Organisation, and you have an ECOWAS that needs monitoring now more than ever to ensure that it delivers a sustainable and prosperous West Africa to all its citizens.

In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" (http://www.critiquing-regionalism.org). Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on ekbensah@ekbensah.net / Mobile: +233.268.687.653.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Towards a Continental AU Government?

Towards a Continental AU Government?
By E.K.Bensah jr

When The 12th Ordinary Session of the Africa Union Assembly of the Heads of State and Government ended on 3rd February 2009 with a call by the heads of State for continental government, the election of the late, controversial Libyan leader Al-Qaddafi as chair of the AU for one year helped deepen skepticism about what some believe to be lofty ideals of a United States of Africa. 

Not a New idea
Let’s face it: the idea of a United Africa is not new. Ghana’s own first, late head of State Dr.Kwame Nkrumah continues to remain the quintessential pioneer of a United Africa. His call is what would stir him to join the countries of Algeria, Guinea, Morocco, Egypt, Mali and Libya in 1961 under what would be called the Casablanca bloc; this group believed in a federation of African states. As a counterweight, the Monrovian bloc, led by Senegal’s Senghor—comprising  Nigeria, Liberia, Ethiopia and most of the former French colonies—believed that unity should be achieved gradually, through economic cooperation.

It is fair to say that the age-old duality of what would represent an united Africa continues to play out in the new terms of rapidists and instantists. However, for whatever one might think or say about al-Qaddafi, it is that he had been consistent in his dream about an Africa with one military, passport, and one foreign policy.

What many observers had been attributing to the Libyan leader of a continental African Union government is in fact a follow-up of the Grand Debate of Accra in 2007.

From AU Commission to AU Authority
The idea is to establish an “African Union Authority” that would replace the existing AU Commission. According to the late Libyan president, it would have been a “government of the union.”  According to out-gone AU Chairman, Tanzanian Kikwete, who held the post from 2008-2009, the new Authority should have been launched and made operational in July 2009. It will have a President and Vice President, while present Commissioners of the AU Commission will serve as secretaries, with portfolios structured along nine areas of shared competence. These include free movement of persons; goods and services; international trade negotiations; peace and security matters and foreign affairs.

In fact, in July 2009, in Sirte, Libya, the AU Assembly did adopt a decision on the modalities of the Transformation of the AUC into an Authority.
The idea remains for the Authority to exercise its functions on the basis of the principle of subsidiary with regards to Member States and Regional Economic Communities (REC’s). It shall have competence in continent-wide poverty reduction, free movement of persons and goods, peace and security, coordination of common defence policy of the continent as well as coordination of foreign policy of the continent among others.

While there remain a number of challenges associated with this enterprise, perhaps the two biggest sticking points find expression in the relationship between any putative AU Authority and the regional economic communities (RECS), as well as the legal implications of a continental government. As regards the RECs, many diplomats are unclear what the roles of the RECs should be, and speculate whether they should not first be strengthened with a view to integrating them into a government. Secondly, the AU Authority would not merely be a matter of semantics, but involve the amendment of the AU Constitutive Act. This would certainly represent a boon to the naysayers who believe this would stall the project indefinitely.

If the 2006 “AU study on Union government” is anything to go by, some challenges have been identified which require some attention if the RECs are to succeed in their mission as building blocks towards deep continental integration. Almost all RECs are “inward-looking” and consider their objective (economic union or political federation) at regional level as the ultimate goal. There is no road-map at the level of the RECs for their eventual integration into a continental union; there are duplications of some AU organs at the level of RECs, notably the parliament, development/investment bank, and the ECOSOC. More importantly, there seems to be no vision in the RECs for a continental agenda.

Because of that, there is need for the AU to take the lead in the promotion of the integration agenda at the continental level.

Another challenge is related to the rationalization debate that is currently underway.You may re-call that in my earlier posts, I referred to South Sudan being member of COMESA, and contemplating becoming a member of East African Community. If one had a proper rationalization underway, whereby one AU member state can belong to only one REC, South Sudan would never have even contemplated the decision of being member of another REC.

Currently, for example, Southern and East Africa are covered by SADC, COMESA, EAC, IGAD and CEN-SAD; some countries belong to up to four RECs. The report maintains that “besides the eight RECs recognized by the AU, there are a number of customs and/or monetary unions whose mandate and work somehow duplicate what the eight RECs are expected to do”. For example, five of the SADC members belong to the Southern African Customs Union; while eight of ECOWAS members belong to the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) which has economic union as an objective,and the six members of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) an organization that also has economic union as an objective, are members of ECCAS.

These shortcomings in terms of the objective of rational regional economic integration notwithstanding, the logic of using the RECs “as building blocks for the eventual deep, continental integration remains valid”, the study continues. The challenge is “in aligning, synchronizing and harmonizing the integration efforts of member states, the RECs themselves, and the AU”. As a consequence, “a road-map for the attainment of deep continental integration and the establishment of Union Government should learn, first, from the difficulties experienced in the implementation of the two previous road-maps (i.e. the Lagos Plan of Action and the Abuja Treaty); second, from the experience of the RECs as the building blocks; and, third, from the past four years of the existence of the AU”.

Hence to facilitate the Union Government project, it is important to also address the current problems faced at the regional level. It is fair to say that while there exist a number of protocols facilitating the addressing of these challenges, the stages of development of the RECs vary, and are likely to slow down the attainment of any Union government of AU member states.

you can also find this article on JOY online: http://opinion.myjoyonline.com/pages/feature/201111/76411.php

In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" (http://www.critiquing-regionalism.org). Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. He is also Ag.President of the Association of Ghanaian Journalists in ICT (AJICT-Ghana).You can reach him on ekbensah@ekbensah.net / Mobile: +233.268.687.653.


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