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ECOWAS economic integration transcends all political interests

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Dr Kofi Konadu Apraku, Minister of Regional Cooperation and NEPAD, on Sunday said ECOWAS effort at economic integration should be seen as transcending all sectional political interests.

He said it was therefore, wrong for any individual or groups of persons to consider national policies aimed at promoting such integration as sectional political agenda and to link them to some politicians.

Dr Apraku was addressing a two-day seminar for the Parliamentary Select Committee on Foreign Affairs on the Integration Process in West Africa, sponsored by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, at Ho.

He said if the ideas of Ghana's first President Dr Kwame Nkrumah on African integration had been embraced the West African sub-region and Africa would have been economically stronger than now.

Dr Apraku said though it had been long realised that integration was a useful mechanism by which African countries could reduce their economic dependency on the developed nations, Africa has not been able to harness the continents human and natural resources for the mutual benefit of its people.

He regretted that the total intra-African trade amounted to only 11 billion dollars, whereas Africa's trade with the outside world amounted to about 101 billion dollars.

The Minister said Ghana for example in 2002, exported 237 million dollars worth of goods to the United Kingdom, whereas her exports to neighbouring Togo amounted to only 27 million dollars.

He said 28 years after the establishment of ECOWAS trade among West African states, total external trade of the sub-region amounted to only 12 per cent.

Dr Apraku said low involvement of the private sector and civil society in the integration process, non-implementation of various protocols and agreements of ECOWAS due to the fact that some countries decided on which of the pacts to embrace and poor infrastructure development were key factors contributing to the "disappointing situation".

He said there was there was the need for ECOWAS to expedite action on measures aimed at ensuring successful integration adding, Ghana would ensure the facilitation of the West African Monetary Zone programme and called on Parliament to support such move by government.

Dr Apraku said as part of measures to "fast track" integration in the sub-region, Ghana government was holding bilateral talks with her close neighbours and would soon establish common border posts to facilitate trade and movement of people among her and its neighbours.

"We are also pursuing vigorous programmes to sensitise border operatives, ensure free movement of persons and goods in our sub-region", he stated.

Topics discussed at the seminar included, "Regional Integration process: Current Challenges", "The Case of a Single Currency By 2005", and "ECOWAS and Infrastructure Development".

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