Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Never a Dull Moment in West Africa(3)…especially with a Mali War!

The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
Never a Dull Moment in West Africa(3)…especially with a Mali War!
By E.K.Bensah Jr

I spent the better part of the long weekend browsing through social and traditional media for any updates on Mali. There’s an obsession to keep one’s eye on the ball, especially given how rapidly things change here in the sub-region. In one moment, we are at peace; in one foul sweep, there’s a coup in a member state. Need I mention Guinea-Bissau or the designs that the French and Portuguese have for the sub-region?

The French Connection
Those following the sub-region will know enough to know that this region is populated by the collective ECOWAS of 15 member countries. Out of these fifteen, there are eight member states that have chosen to stretch their resources by becoming members of UEMOA since 1994. Forget the fact that they were afraid of Nigerian designs for ECOWAS, it is interesting that they would think creating a parallel sub-regional structure for the largely-francophone ECOWAS would be an easier way of avoiding the hegemonic aspirations of the Anglophone Nigeria! If that does not reflect the French and their penchant for being circuitous, I do not know what is!

The Portuguese Connection
Some may not know that ECOWAS has three working languages—English; French and Portguese. The latter is an important language as Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau as two ECOWAS member states speak them. But there is an interesting point about the Portuguese that must be mentioned: Guinea-Bissau is also a member of UEMOA. Tomes can be written about how the apparently-more-organised UEMOA could accept a troubled and beleaguered country to the francophone club, especially when that country is even lusophone. Why not the more-successful Cape Verde, which has been touted as an ECOWAS success? One can never understand the French—neither can one understand reports that claim the French are willing and ready to use drones.

Still on Cape Verde, monitoring the news was a source of bemusement.

Here is little Cape Verde calling for UN intervention in its fellow lusophone country of Guinea-Bissau, when ECOWAS troops have been in that country since May 30, 2012. Why the call for UN intervention at a time when Mali went to call on the UN to intervene? Was it coincidental that the Portuguese President of the European Commission was visiting Cape Verde at the time? Did the aid that the EU gave Cape Verde amount to a “thankyou”” package for making the EU’s work in the sub-region easier? Or could it be that Cape Verde was doing the bidding of the Lisbon-based Community of Portuguese-Speaking countries (CPLP) that seem to be aggrieved that ECOWAS has taken the bull by the horns in Guinea-Bissau with the establishment of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB)?

Whatever conclusion one might draw on the French or Portguese connection in the Mali Question and the sub-region, one cannot help but wonder what other designs Western countries might have for the sub-region.

Wrapping up the communication of ECOWAS/AU
Communication is an ongoing process, and for a complex and lively region like this one, it is terribly challenging. This will certainly not be the last time this writer will be writing about it. Suffice-to-say, it is important to be reminded of two important sources of information that those interested in Africa and the sub-region might be interested in.

The first is PANAPRESS.Com. One of the major positives about this website with Pan-African aspirations is that it is regularly updated. That makes up for its execrable design that seems to stuck in a time warp. For those who understand web-design it is so first-generation web-design (HTML), it is not funny. There is no allowance for social media at all. Sadly, too, the French news “sur le fil”, or on the wire, are infrequently updated. As of today, it still dates back to 15 October, when the Portuguese and English sections of “on the wire” are updated every day! Given that is based in Dakar—a francophone city—it beggars belief why we have a situation where the French releases are some weeks old!

The second is Also based in Dakar, it does everything the AU-backed PANAPRESS avoids. First, all the stories are regularly updated; and secondly, all language sections are updated accordingly. Finally, they have an active social media outfit. At the time of writing, 244 people have “liked” their page on Facebook. Articles that can be read either in French or English are ticked in green. It is almost-immediately easier to see at a glance which articles can be read in full or are behind a pay-wall. Unlike PANAPRESS that regularly offers newspaper digests for free on the wire, however, all the press digests of APANEWS are behind a pay wall.

Coming up in West Africa
  • The secretary general of the West African Power Pool (WAPP), Amadou Diallo, said on Monday in Abuja that the sub-region needed US$26 billion to fix its power challenges. Diallo told the media at the 7th WAPP General Assembly othe region was putting an interconnectivity system in place to put all ECOWAS member states together through electrical Network. "Now we have Nigeria, Benin Togo, Ghana ,Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Niger, Mali, Senegal, and Mauritania interconnected through the integration region, he said.

  • Major players in West Africa’s energy sector are meeting in Accra from Monday, 29th October 2012 to establish a regional framework for the attainment of the three critical targets set by the UN under its Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4ALL) by 2030.  The SE4ALL seeks to extract the commitment of Member States to take concrete actions towards ensuring universal access to energy services; doubling the share of renewal energy in the global energy mix and doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.

  • The ECOWAS Commission is in the process of establishing a Mediation Facilitation Division (MFD) within its Directorate of Political Affairs, as part of its determined effort to strengthen its mediation architecture for the sustenance of  peace and security in the region.  To this end, the Commission, with the support  of the United Nations and other partners, is organizing a three-day needs  assessment workshop in Lagos, Nigeria from Tuesday 30th October 2012, for  stakeholders to fine-tune the concept, mandate, structure and requirements of  the Division.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Communicating the ECOWAS Message (2) Mali: Time for Permanent ECOWAS and AU missions over Africa!

The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
Communicating the ECOWAS Message (2) Mali: Time for Permanent ECOWAS and AU missions over Africa!
By E.K.Bensah Jr

 By the time you read this, it would have been more than 48 hours since a counter-coup in the West African state of Guinea-Bissau. It would have been some 96 hours since ECOWAS met up with the African Union, the European Union, the United Nations and other stakeholders in Mali to make take decisive steps for an intervention in Mali.

In all this, one wonders what the AU message has been. Considering the fact that the AU is the superintendent of the African Standby Force (under which there are regional nodes, such as the Ecowas standby force currently in Guinea-Bissau), why has it not been seen to be articulating the message that any troops from Ecowas would be under the umbrella of the Africa Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), under which the African Standby Force is a direct outcome.

And what of Ecowas? Where is Sunny Ugoh, the Communications Director of Ecowas? Unlike Nato and the EU, I am yet to see a spokesperson for the Ecowas Commission. Even at the African Union, the Deputy President Erastus Mwencha acts like the unofficial spokesperson of the President-proper. While it is true that the Vice-President of Ecowas has been a bit more visible than his francophone predecessor, we probably cannot point the finger of blame to him on why Ecowas has arguably failed in communicating its message over Mali.

I am keen to avoid an elaboration of the timeline that led us to what might be an ineluctable slide to intervention in the northern part of Mali. All I would need to say is that had Mali not taken the matter to the United Nations to seek Chapter VII-approval, an Ecowas standby force (ESF) might just be in that country now and Malians would have probably felt less trepidation about an eventual intervention.

If the penny has yet to drop on the point I am making, then let me make it very crystal-clear: like in the Ivorian crisis, and Libya in 2011, both Ecowas and the AU have failed woefully to communicate yet-again on what kind of policy is directing them in their decisions in Mali—never mind Guinea-Bissau, which has just experienced a counter-coup and will need Ecowas leadership to show the way.

Liberia in 1990  vs Mali in 2012
In order to get a sense of why communication has failed, we need to return to history.

As you may well now know, Ecowas broke out onto the stage in 1990 when it went into Liberia under ECOMOG. Its intervention happened at a time when there was fatigue by the so-called international community on Africa. There was no Chapter VII-approval before intervention as the UN itself was playing a wait-and-watch game. Despite the fact that the United States was Liberia's biggest Western ally, not once did the US step into offer its assistance as explicitly as it has done in the case of Mali. Instead, intervention was left to the English-speaking countries of Ecowas to spearhead. It must be noted the francophones were very uneasy about intervening in Liberia, and, frankly, they feared Nigeria as well.

According to one Comfort Ero, currently  Crisis Group's Nairobi-based Africa Program Director since January 2011, who has written extensively on ECOMOG in Liberia as well as peace and security in West Africa,  there are three reasons why Ecowas went into Liberia.

First of all, ECOWAS believed that "regional instability was inevitable due to the overflow and displacement of refugees in neighbouring countries." Consequently, there was a fear that the conflict would trigger lateral pressure to such an extent that refugees would feel compelled to spill over into neighbouring countries, such as Sierra-Leone, Ghana, the Gambia, Guinea, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.
Secondly, ECOWAS went in purely for humanitarian reasons. According to Ero, "in its Final Communiqué, the Standing Committee gave a strongly humanitarian rationale for its decisions, {to that effect} adding that presently, there is a government in Liberia which cannot govern contending factions which are holding the entire population as hostages depriving them of food, health facilities and other basic necessities of life." Moreover, an ECOWAS statement in August 1990 was more "explicit in emphasizing a humanitarian objective.” In it, it stated that there needed to be a "stopping {of} the senseless killing of innocent civilians, nationals and foreigners, and to help the Liberian people to restore their democratic institutions."

Finally, justification for intervention was predicated on the 1981 ECOWAS Protocol relating to Mutual Assistance in Defence. According to Article 16 of the Protocol, "the Head of State of a member country under attack may request action or assistance from the community."

Twenty-two years later, there seems to be fudge because, it seems, Mali has not had sufficient faith in its own sub-regional institutions. Guinea-Bissau seemed quite happy to allow an Ecowas Standby Force—much to the chagrin of the Lisbon-based Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP)--into the country to replace the UN troops in May 2012. Even with Guinea-Bissau, Lisbon saw itself as needing to be seen to be playing a critical role in the resolution of the crisis. 

Weeks before the 30 May withdrawal of Angolan troops, Portugal claimed that the CPLP reserves the right to call for intervention from the Security Council. This, in my view, seemed to reflect a more stylistic approach to any resolution of the crisis in Guinea-Bissau than substance, for whether Portugal likes it or not, the former remains a member of ECOWAS, and it is that bloc that is and was that bloc that was likely to power-broker any solution to the coup!

Back in May, the Pan-African News Agency (PANA) reported that Burkina Faso would become the first troop contributing nation to deploy to the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB) when the first batch of its 170-member Formed Police Unit (FPU) landed in Bissau. It continued that apart from Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire and Togo were also expected to contribute to the 629-strong regional force, which would replace Angolan troops.

As the Angolan security mission in Guinea-Bissau agreed to fully-withdraw by 30 May, ECOWAS defence chiefs ended their one-day meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, Monday 14 May with an agreement to begin the deployment Friday 18 May 2012.

Among its functions, ECOMIB will seek to support the restoration of constitutional rule, provide security for VIPs and guarantee the freedom of movement of humanitarian agencies in the country, ahead of the planned Security Sector Reform in that country.

At this stage, it is premature to do a direct compare-and-contrast of the Ecowas Mission to Mali (Mission de la CEDEAO au Mali), and it is encouraging that there is already a mission in the formation. I want to discourage a finger-pointing at Ecowas; instead I would want to know why Mali did not espouse sufficient confidence in Ecowas, especially at a time when there were reports of Malians calling for Ecowas intervention. The questions I am seeking are unlikely to be answered in the here and now, so one might just have to settle for the historians to do the speculation—wherever West African historians and political scientists may be!

What I do know is this: following the meeting in Mali of 19 October, the UN and AU have both decided to establish permanent missions in Mali in order to coordinate developments around an eventual intervention. I would like to think that Ecowas might consider establishing a permanent mission there, as well, in the way the AU has established AMISOM in Somalia.

In the meantime, here are my humble proposals for Ecowas to move forward in attempts at communication.

Recommendations for ECOWAS
First, ECOWAS should re-configure its ECOWAS National Units into permanent missions and reduce the fiction that they are liaising with the public. Even if they never intended to do that, it should have been one of their aims: serve as the link between the ECOWAS institutions and its community citizens. In Ghana, they are a desk at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration.

Ecowas has sufficient internally-generated funds to be able to afford establishing a mission in every Ecowas member state. If the AU can establish a permanent mission in Brussels (which is regrettably largely-funded by the EU!), then it should be able to also establish missions in at least “strategic” AU countries.

Failing that, the ECOWAS National Units should establish a website, and regularly-provide citizens information on what Ecowas is doing. Few people have sufficient time to be checking the website of ECOWAS every day. The Ecowas National Unit should be bringing Ecowas to community citizens, and not expecting us as citizens to find out what they are doing. Simply put, they must be accountable. And in this era of New and Social Media, Ecowas should hurry up and re-design its website so that everything on their site can be shared to an Ecowas page on Facebook. Even the AU is beginning to appreciate the necessity of being on Facebook and Twitter. Ecowas must do same quickly or face continuing to be considered an irrelevant institution by a large part of its community citizens!

Direct action!
As a direct outcome of last week’s article, a journalist from the Global Media Alliance-sponsored ETV Ghana, Fred Smith, decided to establish a group on the whatsapp social networking site to enable interested media practitioners, journalists, and communicators work together to promote the idea of an Africa press wire service here in Ghana. While some exist already through PANAPRESS and the Africa Press Organisation, no such organisation exists in Ghana. For a country which first President promulgated Pan-Africanism, is regrettable to say the least! Interested parties can contact me directly. The list-serv to carry this idea forward can be found on


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Communicating the ECOWAS Message (1), and why we need Pan-African News Agency (PANAPRESS) Offices all over Africa!

The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
Communicating the ECOWAS Message (1), and why we need Pan-African News Agency (PANAPRESS) Offices all over Africa!
By E.K.Bensah Jr

In September, I wrote a piece entitled “Troubles in the West AfricanPipeline; trouble in West African cooperation.” It was a characteristically-critical piece on why we were not getting more communication from the ECOWAS agencies (ERERA; WAPP) and the private sector –supported ECOWAS collaboration of the West Africa Gas Pipeline (WAGP) on the gas pipeline. Suffice-to-say, there are few people who now do not know the state of play of the gas pipeline, and that it will be restored by December. This is probably because the WAGP has done a comparatively-better job in communicating to the wider public. So much so that Communications Coordinator of the West Africa Gas Pipeline company Nuna Senaya would contact me to write: “The WAPCo Website is and not WAGPA, the West African Gas Pipeline Authority is the regulatory body for the West African Gas Pipeline Company (WAPCo) and the two organisations do not share the same website.”

That said, last week, two stories conspired to remind me of the necessity of ECOWAS needing to effectively communicate its message of integration to the wider ECOWAS community of citizens.

The first was the Fifth Trade Forum of the West Africa Monetary Zone that took place right here in Accra; and the second related to a conference that would start 15 October about “Human Rights Democracy and Good Governance: Role of the ECOWAS Court of Justice.” I don’t know about you, but I would have thought that two ECOWAS-related conferences like these ought to have been better-publicised. It is already a good start that the organisers are copying Ghana News Agency, from where many Ghanaian media outlets pick general stories from Ghana. As to whether it is standard practice for the communication outlets of the West Africa Monetary Institute and the ECOWAS Court to send releases only to GNA, though, is moot.

In order to expedite West African integration, the Heads of State and Government of Anglophone-speaking countries of The Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Liberia; Nigeria; and Sierra Leone signed in Accra on 20 April, 2000 a Declaration on the creation of a second monetary zone after the CFA-franc zone. The Second Monetary Zone would be formally launched and named the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) at the Bamako Mini-Summit of Heads of State and Government of member countries in December 2001.

WAMI is based in Ghana right at Tetteh-Quarshie and must know that we have more media outlets than the GNA. I would not know whether they copied other media outlets, but the reports seem to have all culled excerpts of GNA’s report. The news was reported on TV3 and ETV. I know because I saw it on those two stations. That is also encouraging—but certainly insufficient. Normally a conference like this would have attracted more coverage than what it did. I cannot think it was only because it was a small meeting. We can forgive the ECOWAS Court/UNDP communications outfit for not publicising this conference on 15 October more than they have done, but we certainly cannot excuse WAMI. 

Where is the Pan-African News Agency?
This concern can only give vent to questions about where on Earth our Pan-African News Agency is. I forgot: Africa no longer has one; what we do have in PANAPRESS. Twenty-five years ago -- on 3 October, 1997—PANA was dissolved and replaced with a limited liability company called PANAPRESS. In June 1998, it would take a major step by privatising PANA in announcing the sale of 64,742 shares, representing 75 percent of capital reserved to investors from then-OAU member states. With the assistance of UNESCO; African private investors; and some African member states, PANAPRESS, based in Dakar, has been offering news hot off the press that concerns Africa for the longest time. It has not all been free, however. Much of the fresh news is paid-for content.

Back in early October, communication officers of the African Union and its institutions met in Addis to deliberate over “Communicating about Africa.” Reports reveal that this kind of communication is now a “major strategic activity as Africa seeks to rebrand itself.” The naysayers are likely to say it’s ten years too late, and they may not be far off the mark. Still, better late than never!

The meeting of communication managers and officers from the organs, offices, programmes of the AU and RECs met under the direction and supervision of the Director of the Information and Communication (DIC), Mrs.Habiba Mejri Cheikh who coordinated the whole process. Participants were expected to work from a draft document produced by an expert consultant.

The idea was for the AU Communication strategy document to focus on both internal and external communication. Seeking to review the current situation of communication within the AU, it would seek to monitor and evaluate the progress made – as well as the challenges faced.  Interestingly, they have identified that social media/New Media is an important part of the communication as it speeds up communication. For the blogging community of citizens, this is great news. It means that we are likely to see more of the AU on Facebook; Twitter; and Google Plus!

The Way forward
In African integration circles, the way forward is never that straightforward. It would be encouraging to read that given this unprecedented meeting, the AU has seen the proverbial light and will act quickly and efficiently. Given how heavily-influenced it is by donor money, we are likely to see a lot of tergiversation.

That said, let us dream for a minute: we know of the Dakar-based PANAPRESS. How about calling for a PANAPRESS office in ALL AU member states? Given how financially— and politically-independent they have been for decades, this surely ought to be possible. Imagine Ghanaians being able to obtain the latest information about the AU from a PANAPRESS office in Accra, and knowing they can get timely, reliable, and efficient reporting of Africa from PANAPRESS on, say, Facebook or Google Plus?

Perhaps, there might be a discount for students and members of civil society? Ambassadors and policy-makers of course have to pay premium rates to ensure that even when the plenipotentiaries and their coterie of diplomats sleep at meetings, the reporters will be making enough money to expose their inattention. But this will not stop here. At the PANAPRESS Office in Accra, we will find a desk for all the eight regional economic communities, with at most three reporters with expertise in covering and writing about the RECs.

Yes, we can dream. TIA. This is Africa, which means that the expectation of this radical kind of change will not happen anytime soon. But I forget: hope springs eternal on the continent, so, maybe, we can just hope communicating the African Union and ECOWAS message will be more meaningful and more impactful sooner than later!

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" ( 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  / Mobile: 0268.687.653.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy October! Happy new month!

I am alive! Yes, I am alive. If you are reading on my Trials and Tribulations... blog, allow me to just say that apart from living life to the full, some serious tectonic changes have taken place in my life seriously obviating the ability and desire to write full-blown entries. 

July is too long a time to have written an entry. Let me just say that it is a new month, bringing a lot of hope and excitement in my life--so be prepared to read more entries of life in Ghana. There's so much going on you would not believe. 

For my Accra Daily blog, I want to thank my loyal readers who keep coming back to read old entries, or who have just uncovered--or discovered--the blog. There are many pictures waiting to grace the blog, and they shall do so this month!

With regard to my Africa Union Citizen blog, let me just say that a paucity of entries is far from a reflection of no-work. I have written quite a bit on the African Union for the past couple of months--just that I thought it was not always necessary to post the entries on that specific blog. Instead, let me direct you to the site where you can find those entries:

I still love Ghana very much; I still love taking pictures of Accra; and I very much love writing about the AU. 

Expect so much more this month--and when you think I am not delivering, write me:

See you on the other side!

Psst...The picture of SMART TV is a note-to-self about getting smarter on my blogging!;-)


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Another Reason to Re-visit Critical Debates in Africa & West Africa's Aviation Sector

Another Reason to Re-visit Critical Debates in Africa & West Africa's Aviation Sector (2)
By E.K.Bensah Jr

Last week, I used the context of the twin weekend crashes of 3 & 4 June to create the backdrop of a call to revise and re-visit some of what I consider to be "critical debates" in Africa and West Africa's aviation sector. That I refer to "debates" suggest there has been a history of discussions, campaigns and fights. 

One would not been far from the truth, for advocacy organisations like the Nairobi-based Association of African Airlines(AFRAA), only as recently as November 2011, decried the EU's "EU Emission Trading Scheme (EU-ETS)", which it describes as "contrary to the principles of international law, the ICAO [UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation] Assembly resolution and not accepted by the majority of States outside the EU." 

Another ongoing fight has centred around the EU's List of banned airlines (blacklisted). In AFRAA's Final Resolutions adopted by the 43rd Annual General Assembly in Morocco in November 2011, AFRAA has called upon "African governments, whose airlines are in the banned list, to take all necessary measures to enhance their safety oversight capacity and remove their country from the list." Finally, it touches on "the great threat the African aviation industry is facing as a result of the flight of highly-skilled and professional manpower and the need for urgent action." The resolution notes how the Secretariat of AFRAA has initiated plans "...[on] several projects such as joint fuel purchase, route coordination..."

Despite all these concerns, it must be noted how the debates have regrettably largely operated on the blindside of discussions on African integration or development in Africa. 

In my preparatory readings for this second of a three-parter looking at the aviation industry, I myself feel like I have touched on a topic so esoteric and specialised that it requires the knowledge and passion of an expert to explain them. Truth be told, the more one reads, the more one realises that it is more of the same of the quintessential turf wars that populate the literature of the fight between the West and the Global South, especially Africa, for its own policy space. 

Enter the Yamoussoukro Declaration
Before your eyes glaze over, consider this: it has been no less than ten years since the Yamoussoukro Decision(YD) entered into force. Established as part of the African Economic Community (AEC), it is an instrument considered as one of the most important air transport reform policy initiatives in Africa. It involves, according to NEPAD, "a continent-wide comprehensive program of agreements of principles and concepts to promote the gradual liberalization of scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services intra-Africa only." 

Put simply, the Decision calls for an open skies policy with: no restrictions on traffic rights, including the fifth freedom [the right or priviledge , in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to put down and to take on....]; no restrictions on capacity and frequency between city pairs; no tariffs regulation by government; allows for multiple designation; and liberalization of air cargo and non-scheduled air services. 

When fully implemented (yes, there have been degrees of implementation), the YD will seek to replace the current fragmented regulatory regime by a unified system allowing airlines commercial opportunities on an equal basis , and ensure their activities will be governed by a common body of aviation rules. Once fully implemented, some of the YD's expected impacts include: improvement of the African air transport network and increases of traffic; lower fares and tariffs; reduction and or elimination of subsidies in the sector; and the merger and more cooperation of airlines.

Implementation status of the YD
It is important to note that while it has been a decade since the YD went into force, it is not all gloom and doom as out of the-then 53 AU member states in 1999 (when it was adopted) no less than 44 countries signed the Decision in 1999, committing them after ratification, to gradually implement the open skies policy agreed upon in this treaty. The non-signatories were 10, and included South Africa; Djibouti; Eritrea; Gabon; Equatorial Guinea; Madagascar; Morocco; Mauritania; Somalia; and Swaziland. 

Furthermore, there have been a number of noteworthy positive effects of the YD. For example, in several regional economic communities(RECs), there has been an increased cooperation in airline operations – code-sharing; cross-border investment, including initiatives to create regional airlines with the involvement of the private sector. Examples include the putative "ECOWAS airline", which is based in Togo (with support from ECOBANK; UEMOA; Ecowas Bank of Investment and Development, among others) and known as ASKY; Air CEMAC; Royal Air Maroc / Air Senegal International. In addition, there has been more granting of the 5th Freedom traffic rights; the setting-up of coordination institutions to strengthen regional civil aviation oversight; and an increased regional consultation and decision-making on air transport matters. 

Despite the apparent absence of the African Union in airline advocacy, it has not been as absent as one might believe. This is because the African Union Commission(AUC) continues to work to strengthen its specialised agency (touched on last week) – the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) and its mandate, as well as its capacity in relation to the Executing Agency. The AUC still has supervisory oversight of the New AFCAC Constitution, which was completed in May 2010; and its secretariat is established with ongoing secondments; recruitment to carry out studies on institutional, regulatory and financing arrangements.

Outcomes of the Second Session of the AU Conference of Ministers Responsible for Transport 

From 21-25 November, 2011, AU ministers responsible for Transport met in Luanda to deliberate on the Implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision on Aeronautical Taxes, Charges and Fees. A report for the meeting reveals that there are a number of factors that influence the imposition of unjustifiably High Taxes, Charges and Fees (TCFs), and that there may be several factors contributing towards this policy approach. 

First, the nature of air transport makes it a convenient subject of indirect taxation. The report maintains "as a high-revenue industry...aviation tax collection is inexpensive and convenient for the Treasury and others that seek to raise funds even for projects and activities unrelated to aviation." Secondly, "air transport is politically vulnerable, lacking any large lobbying block to protect its interests at national and regional level."

There are a number of points for the recommendation of the Declaration, but two major points make worthy reading. First, given that African airlines "strongly oppose the use of charges and taxes for revenue-raising purposes", charges should reflect cost-recovery principles while taxes require a strong economic justification. Second, "all stakeholders in the value chain of transport service should cooperate and work together to improve the productivity and cost effectiveness which translate into lower charges to the airlines and users of air transport. The report concludes that "reducing the cost of travel must be the goals of all stakeholders and should not be left to the air operators alone."

Finally, if there is anything one must take out of this article, it is the fact that while there remain solutions to the current state of African aviation, African policymakers can probably do more than they have done. Secondly, the issue of taxes remains a cardinal problem that must needs be resolved. It is unacceptable that the average passenger TCF on return trips for air travel between the main African Regional Airports ranges from the highest average of USD29.45 and the lowest average of 19USD19.27 in North Africa to very high taxes in West Africa. In my view, we should begin to ask questions why air travel between the West/Central Africa airports have the highest average TCFs, with the highest being USD125 and the lowest USD70. Why such a discrepancy?

Saturday 23 June will be three weeks since the twin crashes. Are we still counting down to the outcome of the report from the established committee?

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" ( 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 / Mobile: 0268.687.653.

Source: Emmanuel K. Bensah Jr.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Another reason to Re-visit Critical debates in Africa & West Africa’s Aviation Sector (1)

Another reason to Re-visit Critical debates in Africa & West Africa’s Aviation Sector (1)
By E.K.Bensah Jr

The twin weekend accidents of 2 and 3 June in Ghana and Nigeria respectively, which resulted in a total loss of almost 180 souls should be seen as two accidents too many for the West African aviation sector. Never mind the three days mourning and the grounding of Dana Air in Nigeria, or the call for relocation of Kotoka International Airport,  if there is anything we must take out of these two tragedies, it is the call and need for a re-vamped and more secure African aviation industry.

There’s no gainsaying the innovative industry that is the air industry contributes significantly to the economy of any nation. It drives economic and social progress; connects people, countries; and cultures. It also offers access to global markets and generates trade and tourism. According to the African Union, “aviation in general provides the only rapid worldwide transportation network, which makes it essential for global business and tourism thus facilitating economic growth, particularly in developing countries.”

The AU maintains that “the air transport industry directly generates 5.58 million jobs globally and directly contributes USD408 billion to global GDP.” It also contributes “USD1.1 trillion to world GDP through its direct, indirect and induced impacts – equivalent to 2.3% of world GDP.” Worldwide, Africa represents 10% of total jobs and 2% of GDP generated by the air transport industry, including catalytic impacts.

Liberalisation has played a critical element in the aviation industry worldwide. First, it has permeated all aspects of the aviation industry with competition by helping to elevate awareness, expectations and choice at the same time as protecting consumer rights. Second, liberalization and privatization have led to a steady reduction of state control of the aviation sector.

An upside of this trend has been many more states collaborating among themselves through the establishment of regional; inter-regional and other strategic partnerships based on common economic interests, such as the Nairobi-based Association of African Airlines (AFRAA), and the Abuja-based Banjul Accord Group(BAG). This has encouraged, according to the AU, harmonisation of regulations; integration and management of assets; pooling of resources, etc, which can only enhance the growth of civil aviation, thus benefiting the agencies involved and consumers.

In order to obtain a greater insight of the aviation sector in Africa, a brief description of the two collaborative ventures is necessary.

Association of African Airlines (AFRAA)
The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) was established in April, 1968 originally in Accra, Ghana as a Trade Organisation open to membership of airlines of African States. Today, there are currently forty members from African Union member States, including Ethiopian Airlines; Kenya Airways; South African Airways; ASKY, and Ghana’s Starbow airlines
According to the AFRAA website, “the formation of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) was the result of historic developments and economic imperatives”. Though it is vague on what these “imperatives” are, it goes on to explain the context of the Cold War and the ushering of independence of many African states in the 1960s as one of the reasons for its establishment.
In the early 1960s, a great number of African States acceded to independence and created their own national airlines. Most of these airlines became members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
In 1963, AFRAA had its “conceptual beginning” when a number of African airlines, taking the opportunity provided by the IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) began holding consultation meetings prior to the IATA AGMs to discuss matters of interest to African airlines and to adopt common positions. This was the first step towards the creation of AFRAA.
From that first step in Rome in 1963, the establishment in 1968 in Accra, of a regional organisation for the articulation of regional views and promotion of co-operation was undertaken by 14 founding members.
Cairo, Egypt, would play host to the first Annual General Assembly in February, 1969 which approved the Articles of Association among other decisions taken.
According to the association’s website, its activities over the last four decades show that AFRAA can modestly claim that: (a)it has been in the forefront of major initiatives in the air transport field in Africa in sensitizing African airlines to take concrete actions for co-operation in operational, commercial, technical, and training fields. An ancillary claim-to-fame is being “instrumental in sensitizing African Governments through the African Civil Aviation Commission and other regional and sub-regional organisations on the actions to be taken for the development of an efficient air transport system. It has been a catalyst for all the major policy decisions in the Continent”.
Banjul Accord Group (BAG)
On 29 January 2004, seven West African States namely Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone met in Banjul, Gambia to sign the Banjul Accord Group (BAG) Agreement. The objective of this agreement requires BAG member States to harmonise their policies and procedures on civil aviation and foster the development of international civil aviation through cooperative arrangements between the States. Interestingly, with the exception of Lusophone Cape Verde, the other six ECOWAS member states are all members of the West Africa Monetary Zone.

Subsequently, in 2004, the seven BAG member States signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the implementation of the Co-operative Development of Operational Safety and Continuing Airworthiness Project for the Banjul Accord Group (COSCAP-BAG). According to the BAG website, “the project was implemented under the ICAO Technical Cooperation Programme through assignment and technical back-stopping of internationally recruited experts in the fields of flight operations, airworthiness, flight Safety Regulations and aerdromes and regionally recruited inspectors, for carrying out safety oversight functions on behalf of the BAG member States.”

It may interest one to know they have an updated website on, and have culled the information of the twin crashes on their site at the time of writing.

The African Civil Aviation Commission
A specialized institution of the African Union, the Dakar-based African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) was created by the Constitutional Conference convened by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the-then Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1964. AFCAC was fully established and began functioning in 1969 and on 11 May, 1978 became an OAU Specialized Agency in the field of Civil Aviation.

From its inception, AFCAC was technically, administratively and financially managed by the UN agency ICAO through African member State’s contributions. AFCAC became autonomous from ICAO management as recently as 1st January 2007, meaning that it has officially been financially-independent for only five years!

AFCAC today comprises 54 African States and is managed through a triennial Plenary (consisting of all member States). The Bureau is made up of a President, 5 vice-presidents (representing North, West, East, Central and South African Regions) and the Coordinator of the African Group at the ICAO Council and the Secretariat is headed by a Secretary General.

According to the website of AFCAC on, its vision is to “foster a safe, secure, efficient, cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly Civil Aviation industry in Africa”. The Third meeting of the African Ministers in charge of civil aviation matters which was held on 11th March 2007, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia entrusted AFCAC with the attributions and responsibilities of the Executing Agency for the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision. The Resolution was endorsed by the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government in Accra, Ghana on 29th June 2007. To accommodate these added responsibilities, AFCAC adopted a new Constitution at a meeting of Plenipotentiaries which was held in Dakar, Senegal on 16 December 2009 and the Constitution came into force on 11th May 2010.

In the next piece on aviation industry in Africa/West Africa, I will spend more time on the role of the aviation sector especially in the sub-region and offer a summary of the second session of the AU conference of Ministers responsible for Transport that took place in Luanda, Angola in November 2011.

In the meantime, Saturday 16 June will be two weeks since the Ghana/Nigeria crashes. Is anyone counting down to the outcome of the report from the established committee?

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" ( 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 / Mobile: 0268.687.653.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Happy #AfricaLiberation Day! The #AU Launches Branding Campaign

I quite understand why there are many who might have an issue with the symbolism of AU day, but until we have even a small group of dedicated Ghanaians and Africans ready and willing to make African Unity happen--by any (legal and legitimate) means necessary--Africa will NOT come out of the doldrums.

Unbeknownst to many, the AU has launched a branding campaign (which pictures I have attached herewith for your amusement!) today, and I daresay if we had a more effective Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ghana would have known about this before AU day! You can read more about it on

Secondly, AU day is NOT even celebrated in all AU member states, fueling speculation that some Africans are more "African" than others. Egypt is holding elections today--as you may know--and it is a sad indictment of Ghana-Egyptian relations that there was no indication of the celebration of the day before their elections.

Finally, until we begin to hold our politicians accountable by questioning them on their regional integration commitments around election time (as East African Community is talking of doing), we will hasten slowly. The East African Legislative Assembly, as compared to the ECOWAS Parliament, makes binding decisions on all member states of the EAC. Why has it taken so long for ECOWAS to follow suit? In my view, these and many more urgent issues must animate us on days like these!;-)

Africa Can--and Must--unite.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mission: ECOWAS Has a Responsibility to Protect West Africa from Criminals

“The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:

Mission: ECOWAS Has a Responsibility to Protect West Africa from Criminals
E.K.Bensah Jr

Back in October 2011, I wrote a piece entitled “Time for ECOWAS to Ratify the Criminal Investigative Intelligence Bureau”. The idea behind the piece was to argue that free movement is great for the ECOWAS sub-region, but comes at a cost – cross-border crime. The news last week of West African “aliens” having been caught entering Ghana to benefit from National Health Insurance is but one of many stories of how free movement for ECOWAS citizens, including the provision to stay ninety days in a country, can be abused. This provision is possible thanks to the Protocol on Free Movement, Right of Residence and Establishment which was adopted in 1979. In 1980, ECOWAS members would ratify the first phase of the Protocol guaranteeing free entry of citizens from member states without visa for ninety days.

I also touched on how West African leaders, working through ECOWAS, had made significant strides on combating drug trafficking, crime; and what I described as “all the attendant vices associated with un-policed porous borders”

With UEMOA (comprising eight francophone ECOWAS member states) using ID cards and all ECOWAS member states having adopted national ID systems, the window of opportunity must be capitalised upon by member states to really get serious in securing a sub-region. Although hope springs eternal on this continent, we cannot live on it indefinitely – simply because it is unsustainable in terms of deliverables. With specific case to the ID cards, this means that every single Ghanaian ought to enjoy usage of the national ID cards—and not just a select few who have received their cards. The cards ought to be used by banks and nation-wide institutions. When done, this will help in building a database of citizens, which will also help law enforcement agencies to liaise nationally and sub-regionally.

Equally important in my argument was how in October 2008, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime launched a report[1] that “castigated ECOWAS member states for their apparently-lackadaisical approach to fighting trans-border crime in the sub-region”. Member states like Guinea-Bissau had become soft spots for drug traffickers who took advantage of often-corrupt systems of governance to use that country as a conduit for onward movement of their drugs.
Regrettably, even as Guinea-Bisssau is voting in elections at the time of writing, and no less than 180 ECOWAS election observers are in the country, it cannot shake off the tag of the “narco-state”, which has ineluctably been associated it.

How ECOWAS has positively changed the landscape
Almost four years later, the situation continues to change dramatically as ECOWAS member states have gotten serious by engaging the UN Office on Drugs and Crime(UNODC) and other UN agencies, such as the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) to establish elite and so-called “Transnational Crime Units” in selected ECOWAS member states[2] to deal with the canker under the West African Coastal Initiative.

At the sub-regional level, ECOWAS has a number of structures that are helping rein in what might otherwise be a chaotic sub-region. These include the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on illicit drugs trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse[3]; ECOWAS Committees of Chiefs of Security Services, and Chiefs of Defence Staff; WAPCCO; and GIABA.

Backed by the Canada-based “The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre”, the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Security Services has assisted ECOWAS since May 2009 to create a committee that ensures proper communication and coordination efforts with member states on the police component of the African Standby Force and other regional security issues. The committee is now funded by the ECOWAS Commission’s regular annual budget and meets twice a year.
The ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff—an exclusively military component—reviews security in the sub-region through quarterly meetings. The ECOWAS agency that is the Intergovernmental Action Group against Money-Laundering, or GIABA, is responsible for the prevention and control of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in the West African Sub-Region. Critical to its mandate is the “improvement of measures and intensifying efforts to combat the laundering of proceeds of crime in West Africa”.

ECOWAS’s formulation of a regional response through their Political Declaration of 2005 (that put forward the idea of establishing a criminal investigative intelligence bureau) has helped nip the problem in the bud. However, considering the fact that that the Criminal Investigative Intelligence Bureau (CIIB) had been proposed as far back as 2002 by Ghana for a meeting of the INTERPOL-backed West Africa Police Chiefs Committee (WAPCCO) in Abidjan, the challenge would have been better dealt with had member states resolved to establish the-said CIIB.

While ECOWAS community citizens continue to enjoy free movement in the sub-region, this is a region that has played host to internecine conflicts, such as the Liberian conflict of 1990 that prompted the intervention of ECOMOG. As I wrote back in October 2011, “add to that the porous border, the free movement of mercenaries, coupled with small arms trafficking and the recruitment of child soldiers and fighters to the cross-border crimes and we have ourselves a potential powder-keg that needs significant monitoring through significant systems of intelligence – as proposed by the yet-to-be-ratified CIIB”.

But that is not all. In 2012, ECOWAS is confronted by crisis in Northern Mali; piracy; and a Sahel crisis. These are new elements forcing ECOWAS to take the bull by the horns on factoring not just the visceral peace and security instruments it is so used to, but a law-enforcement perspective that is sufficiently holistic to secure and protect West Africans from criminals and miscreants.

In my 29 February edition for this column, entitled “West Africa Rising…in Regional Instability?”, I wrote “while the [ECOWAS] Authority has strongly condemned the MNLA rebellion in Mali and expressed its full support for efforts being exerted by Mali to ‘defend its territorial integrity’, the sub-regional organisation has not only called for “an immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities by the rebels’’, but also approved the release of three million US dollars to assist Mali deal with the humanitarian consequences of the rebellion.”

At the time of writing, ECOWAS has done more than that—including the ECOWAS Commission urging member states and partners to “support the government of Mali with logistics and materiel as the country battles to defend its territorial integrity and restore law and order," the 15 nation ECOWAS said in a statement.
Furthermore, the ECOWAS Commission has called on Mali National Liberation Army to observe a ceasefire, and warned that ECOWAS would take "all necessary measures" to help Mali protect itself, without giving any further details. According to Reuters, the ECOWAS statement said it would also launch a mediation process "in the coming days".

Whither, again, the future of ECOWAS law enforcement?
You may re-call that on 4 August, ECOWAS, alongside international partners, established the so-called Border Information Centres (BIC). While far from a holistic response to tackling crime and enforcing a rule of law in the sub-region, it nevertheless is an important step in tackling cross-border corruption and helping mitigate cross-border crime by providing citizens with transparent ways of obtaining information on free movement in the sub-region.

Truth be told, I am not quite sure whether we can yet speak of an ECOWAS law enforcement system, which is ironic considering how ECOWAS does “peace and security” very well. On peace and security, ECOWAS has developed fairly elaborate protocols, such as the 1999 ECOWAS protocol for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security. This enables ECOWAS intervene in conflicts in its member countries. ECOWAS also has Early Warning mechanism (ECOWARN), as well as a Mediation and Security Council, which is the key decision-making organ.

In its 2008 Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF)—which seeks to strengthen human security architecture in the ECOWAS sub-region— ECOWAS has developed a basis for a holistic and comprehensive action plan in the field of peace and security—but not on law enforcement. A review might be timely at a time when the sub-region is rocked by manifold crises—listed above.

Way Forward for ECOWAS
At a time when African integration observers are talking of a putative Arab Maghreb Union(AMU)-ECOWAS-CENSAD free trade area (along the lines of the tripartite COMESA-EAC-SADC free-trade area), this second FTA is unlikely to go anywhere quickly without ECOWAS getting very serious on distinguishing between what I would call “hard”(war; drug-trafficking; human-trafficking) and “soft”(cross-border and petty crime) conflict. It is very encouraging to read of Joint Border Patrols in the sub-region—as prescribed by the INTERPOL-backed West African Police Chiefs Committee.

Further, in response to the piracy threat in the Gulf of Guinea, Benin and Nigeria are conducting joint maritime patrols. Togo and Ghana are expected to join in these patrols as well. It is envisioned that the Economic Community for Central African States (ECCAS) is also conducting joint patrols in the Gulf of Guinea, with Cameroon, Sao Tome and Principe, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.

ECOWAS might not have had the foresight of establishing a West African law enforcement mechanism (like the EU did with EUROPOL with respect to the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992) the very moment the Treaty of Lagos was revised in 1993 to reflect the current challenges of ECOWAS, but it can never be too late, I wrote in October 2011, “to rectify the imperative of a sub-regional police force along the likes of INTERPOL or EUROPOL”. ECOWAS's imperative and comparative strengths on peace, security, and conflict prevention ought to give it the necessary impetus to bring to fruition the belated “ECOWASPOL”/CIIB the sub-region so desperately needs.

That Guinea is the only country to have established the francophone counterpart of CIIB—ORIC—in its country is a woeful indictment of how seriously West African leaders take the establishment of crime prevention and management in the sub-region. Let us today help each other put pressure on the leaders of our respective member states to ratify the 2005 protocol on the criminal investigative intelligence bureau!


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" ( 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 / Mobile: 0268.687.653.

[1] Online. Drug trafficking as a security threat in West Africa.

[2] So far, only four selected countries of Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone are involved. These countries were chosen as they already have UN presences. The idea is to also extend it to Guinea-Conakry and other ECOWAS member states over time.
[3] Online. 


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