Ms Hanna Serwaah Tetteh, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, on Monday reiterated that successful regional integration would equip the sub-region with the tools for the fierce competition taking place across the globe.
She said the regional body, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) therefore needed to continue to create the atmosphere of peace and stability as preconditions for sustainable development.
Ms Tetteh said this in a lecture, “Regional Integration as a Tool for Poverty Reduction in West Africa” at the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) International 30th Anniversary lecture and the inauguration of CUTS-Accra Centre.
CUTS International, a global think-tank established in Jaipur, India in 1983, has become a leading southern voice on trade, regulation, investment, competition, consumer protection and governance.
Its mission is “Consumer Sovereignty in the Framework of Social, Justice and Equality within and across borders.”
Ms Tetteh said for the ideals of ECOWAS to remain relevant and practical, the regional body ought to strengthen its institutions, conflict prevention mechanisms and deepen democracy rather than the continual resort to reactive measures.
The Foreign Minister however called for intra-regional introspection and collective effort towards implementing the integration agenda as a catalyst for development and change.
She commended CUTS for its research and networked advocacy in addressing contemporary development issues from the grassroots to the international policy-making arena and pledged government’s support and fruitful collaboration.
Dr Toga Gayewea McIntosh, Vice Chairman of ECOWAS Commission, said his outfit was redoubling efforts to actualize its mandate including its new Vision 2020, which focuses on its people than member states.
He said ECOWAS was striving to creating a borderless, prosperous and cohesive region where people have the capacity to access and harness its enormous resources through the creation of opportunities for sustainable development and environmental preservation.
Dr McIntosh said this needs ingredients such as human resource, capital, attitude and ingenuity as well as value addition for global competition.
He said ECOWAS was exploring opportunities to kick-start a working session for the establishment of a West African Graduate University with support from the University of Ghana and CUTS International to begin a process of churning out well-thought students to cushion the sub-region’s development aspirations.
Mr Ismael E. Yamson, Chairman, Standard Chartered Bank, Ghana, appealed to the private sector across the sub-region to forge partnerships as a recipe for deepening regional integration for the needed growth and development.
He called for the harmonization of legal and regulatory systems to serve as the fulcrum around which business is done, adding “There is lot more to lose if regional integration fails to work, the cost will be huge and demoralising.”
Mr Yamson advocated for bringing on the informal sector to facilitate the cause of doing business, expand access and enhance the economic unity and development of the sub-region.
Mr Pradeep Mehta, Secretary-General of CUTS, said from a zero budget it rose to become a global brand in three decades with strategic interventions in various areas of public policy with proven results.
“We have been able to build up a large network of friends, businesses and nations around the world with our cutting edge work in trade, regulation and governance,” he said.
Professor Ernest Aryeetey, Vice Chancellor of University of Ghana said CUTS ingenuity would promote south-south trade and cooperation and hope regional integration would become more competitive and engender maximum gains among member states.