President Nana Akufo-Addo says with West Africa and Africa’s population set to reach 500 million and 2 billion people in 20 years, respectively, the process of regional and continental integration should be in the interest of all Africans and must no longer stall.
He said West Africa and Africa’s projected populations mean that “genuine regional and continental markets in Africa should be in our mutual economic interests, for these markets will present immense opportunities to bring prosperity to the peoples in our region and continent with hard work, creativity and enterprise”.
Functioning, common regional and continental markets, he added, have to be very fundamental objectives of Ghanaians, Nigerians, and, indeed, of all the peoples and governments in the region and on the continent, objectives that will consolidate the processes of structural transformations of our national economies on which we must be engaged.
“We cannot persist with economic structures that are dependent on the production and export of raw materials, if we are to bring prosperity to the masses of our peoples,” he added.
The President said this on Tuesday when he delivered the keynote address at the graduation ceremony of Course 25 participants of Nigeria’s National Defence College, in Abuja, Nigeria.
The President noted that for a continent that has made the choice of pursuing integration, “we have not done much as we should have in liberalising and promoting trade amongst member countries”.
Indeed, research has shown that countries or groups of countries with the largest share of world trade are located within regions with the highest share of intra-regional trade. Trade between African nations remains low compared to other parts of the world.
In 2000, intra-regional trade accounted for 10% of Africa’s total trade and increased marginally to 11% in 2015. Trading amongst members of the European Union, for example, amounted to 70% in 2015.
“With these very low levels of trade and investment co-operation in Africa, we must put in place deliberate measures at expanding trade and business collaborations to improve the prospects for prosperity of our peoples.
“For my part, I have made it clear on several occasions, and in the countries I have visited so far in the region and on the continent, that I am willing to do whatever I can to strengthen the ECOWAS and AU communities,” the President said.
He continued, “It is extremely important for the welfare of the 1.2 billion people of the continent that we, the leaders, demonstrate strong political will to make the project of integration, at the regional and continental levels, economic and political successes, and make them realities in the lives of our peoples”.
President Akufo-Addo stressed that if the Ghana and Nigeria consider the benefits of the full implementation of ECOWAS and AU Treaties on trade, free movement of goods and persons, customs, taxation, statistics, money and payments, then the two countries would both benefit in far better ways.
“It surely makes more sense for Nigeria to import its salt from Ghana than from Brazil. When we think of Africa before our own countries, we are not just being pan-Africanists, we are being true nationalists because what makes Africa better will make each of our countries better and more prosperous,” he said.
Follow EU example
President Akufo-Addo noted that nearly seven decades ago, on May 9, 1950, a few nations of Europe, in response to a proposal from French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman, embarked on a new journey.
“When he made the proposal that has today led to the European Union, the European continent was just five years removed from the Second World War; a war that had broken the back of Europe and spilled the blood of so many, including some of our own,” he said.
Currently, according to President Akufo-Addo, the European Union has a market of 508 million people or 7.3% of the world population – the world’s third largest population after China and India -, one currency, and the free movement of goods, services and people across twenty-seven countries, albeit with Great Britain having voted to exit the Union, and beginning the processes for BREXIT.
“The EU in 2016 generated a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of 16.5 trillion US dollars, constituting approximately 23% of nominal global GDP, which is the second largest economy by GDP in the world.
“The single currency, the EURO, has increased efficiency, lowered the cost of doing business and improved transparency in pricing. The overall effect has been to make Europe a much stronger economic and political player on the world stage,” he said.
Nigeria must provide leadership
President Akufo-Addo noted that West Africa and Africa cannot make the bold transformative changes they need to make without visionary political leadership.
“We need leadership that is focused on the region and continent, and not on individual countries. The European Union took off because the political leadership of France and Germany decided to make it work.
“Once the political will is evident, we can then work together to make out of ECOWAS and the AU true regional and continental markets,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo was of the view that Nigeria must provide the political leadership and passion to translate the ECOWAS and AU dreams into reality.
“You have the numbers, you have the economic muscle and, dare I say it, you owe it to the region and continent,” he said.