President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Tuesday expressed the need for Africa to prioritise the pursuit of regional integration to enable it deliver on its potential growth prospects.
He said with West Africa set to reach 500 million and Africa two billion people in 20 years, the process of regional integration should be in the interest of all Africans and must not stall.
President Akufo-Addo said this when he delivered the keynote address at the graduation ceremony of Course 25 participants of Nigeria’s National Defence College, in Abuja, Nigeria.
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”.
The President said what ought to engage Ghanaians, Nigerians and all the peoples and governments in the region, was to consolidate the processes of structural reforms of national economies in order to have functioning, common regional and continental markets.
“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.
President Akufo-Addo noted that the continent had not done much in the pursuit of integration, saying: “ We have not done much as we should have in liberalising and promoting trade amongst member countries.”
He said he had made it clear on a number of occasions, on several platforms in the countries he had visited in the region and on the continent that “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”.
“For my part, I am willing to do whatever I can to strengthen the ECOWAS and AU communities,” the President said.
The President stressed that Ghana and Nigeria stood to benefit in far better ways, if both countries implementation fully ECOWAS and AU Treaties on trade, free movement of goods and persons, customs, taxation, statistics, money and payments.
“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.
President Akufo-Addo said 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.