President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, making good on his commitment to strengthen the ECOWAS Community on Wednesday called for the 24-hour opening of the borders between Ghana and Togo, to promote regional cohesion and economic development.
He explained that such a move would boost trade and tourism, and ensure that the people of the two nations reaped the economic benefits thereof.
“The opening of our borders will give true meaning to the ECOWAS Protocols on Free Movement of Goods and Persons, and will spur on progress and prosperity for our people,” he stated when he delivered a brief speech at a State dinner held in his honour by his Togolese counterpart, President Faure Gnassingbé.
President Akufo-Addo was in that country on his first-leg of a three-nation tour of Ghana’s immediate neighbours-Togo, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire- in a wider move to introduce himself to and deepen relations with countries in the ECOWAS region.
The three-nation tour is the first phase of the President’s quest to strengthen bilateral ties and to restate Ghana’s commitment to the ECOWAS project. He would in the month of May, pay official working visits to seven other countries including Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea, Benin, Cape Verde, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
President Akufo-Addo noted that it was extremely important for the welfare of the 350 million people living in West Africa, that its leaders showed strong political will to make ECOWAS an economic and political success, and to make the integration real.
“I am fully committed, and I know President Faure Gnassingbé is too. With West Africa’s population set to reach some 500 million people in 20 years’ time, there are immense opportunities to bring prosperity to our region with enterprise and creativity. The time for West African integration is now. Ghana and Togo should take the lead in converting ECOWAS into a true regional market, and, indeed, in helping to facilitate the wider efforts at continental integration and unity,” he added.
In President Akufo-Addo’s view, a functioning, common regional market in ECOWAS, had to be a fundamental objective of all of the people and governments in ECOWAS, and it was for this reason that “I am very much for the 24-hour opening of the borders between our two countries. This will boost trade, tourism, and, then can we reap the economic benefits.”
He expressed the hope that during his term of office and that of President Faure Gnassingbé, Ghana and Togo would search for ways to co-operate and harness fully the benefits of their shared resources.
“The resources of the Volta Basin, the exploitation of our mutual iron ore deposits, the rapid construction of dams to extend the supply of electricity to the northern parts of our countries, the joint respect of our maritime borders, the completion of the construction of water treatment plants to deliver potable water, as well as the sharing of knowledge and information, will create jobs and wealth for our people,” he said.
To this end, President Akufo-Addo told his Togolese counterpart that “it is not right that the last meeting of the Permanent Joint Commission of our countries was held in 2009, some eight years ago. It would give me great pleasure to welcome your team to Accra for the next Joint Commission meeting, hopefully in July. We must hasten the process of the attainment of our shared objectives.”
President Akufo-Addo praised the Togolese President for promoting a spirit of national reconciliation amongst the Togolese people, a reference to the presence of the erstwhile leader of the Togolese opposition, Gilchrist Olympio, who was also present at the State dinner.
“They have both exhibited considerable courage in bringing the process this far. They have demonstrated that the forward movement of this country is their only and utmost concern. Long may they continue on this path,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo noted that “Africa is breeding a new generation of leaders”, adding that “this generation of African leaders must not fail the long suffering African masses. They must help bring dignity and prosperity to our continent and its peoples.”
He noted that the new generation of leaders emerging on the continent were committed to governing their peoples according to the rule of law, respect for individual liberties and human rights, and the principles of democratic accountability, and are looking past commodities to position their countries in the global marketplace.
He added that this new breed of African leaders were determined to free their people from a mindset of dependence, aid, charity and hand-outs; were bent on mobilising Africa’s own immeasurable resources to resolve Africa’s problems; and recognise the connectedness of their people and economies to those of their neighbours.