The Head of Research and Communications Unit of “Africa in Focus”, Emmanuel K. Bensah Jr, has emphasized on the urgent need to increase the public knowledge and engagement on ongoing ECOWAS integration efforts on energy situation in the region and across the continent and their implications for Ghana.
E.K Bensah made this emphasis recently in Accra during a two-day high-level public forum held to discuss issues of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); including the energy situation in the sub-region, and the role of Rwanda in promotion of intra-African trade.
The forum which had the theme “Enhancing public knowledge and engagement on regional development in West Africa” brought together participants such as senior policy officials, civil society leaders, researchers and community leaders, from various institutions, to also discuss ongoing debates around ECOWAS’ informal economy sector.
Speaking on the ‘understanding the role of Civil society organization engagement in ECOWAS, the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WASCI), Nana Asantewaa Afadzinu, said ECOAWAS was established in 1975 for the purposes of economic integration, promotion of economic trade, cooperation and self-reliance.
She reiterated that the establishment was to enhance pre-colonial ties and weaken adverse economic and social legacies of colonialism, create an enlarged market to enhance competitiveness and development of states, improve terms of trade for the foreign and increase their bargaining power, and also to empower weak and small states in an era of globalization.
However, the sub-region Mrs. Afadzinu noted, had experience common challenges which includes: weak governance and institutions, youth unemployment, poor infrastructure, cross border crime, poor service delivery and poor social support structures.
She said civil society organizations (CSOs) which comprise of non-government organizations (NGOs), professional bodies and trade union play critical role in engagement in ECOWAS that hinges on Democratic Governance; Peace and Security, and Economic Governance.
The roles include: service delivery, advocacy, watch-dog, expert, policy formulation, implementation and monitoring, institution building and norm setting.
Nana Asantewaa Afadzinu indicated that there has been a sort of oneness among the nations in the sub-region which has enhanced learning and sharing among the countries.
This she said included: cross border engagement, experience sharing and learning; and the collaboration of West African countries to oversee elections in Ghana and Nigeria.
A former ECOWAS official during the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Frank Ofei, said ECOWAS would be peaceful and vibrant if CSOs and the private sector is involved actively into its committees.
According to him, ECOWAS is hinged by four pillars of its economic status. There are: Oil and Mining sector, agriculture and agribusiness sector, under-developed mining sector and the informal sector.
Mr. Ofei stated that the implementation of ECOWAS many policies would lead to economic progress, peace and others, which should bring equity into the sub-region.
He called on stakeholders to harmonise and implement various policies in a manner that can be monitored adding that political engagement at all levels must be credible.
The former ECOWAS official charged the media and CSOs to play critical roles in gingering the various governments to perform better.
There were other presentations from other resource persons at the 2-day high-level meeting.
The ‘Africa in Focus’ (AIF) is a brand new two-hour discussion show that is aired every Tuesday from 1:00 p.m to 3:00 pm on Radio XYZ 93.1.
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