'The short term pain that we have to bear in our bid to overcome the challenges of regional integration would lead to long term gain for everyone,' said Hanna S. Tetteh, the Ghanaian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration.
'We welcome the opening of the CUTS Centre in Accra and look forward to its active participation in providing research support to Ghana and the West African region on critical economic policy issues' said Madam Tetteh. 'We are aware of the distinguished work of CUTS and I have personally interacted with them during my earlier position as Trade & Industries Minister of Ghana'.
'CUTS has developed a successful methodology of connecting grassroots to the policy makers especially through applied research, advocacy and networking' said the Minister. 'We value this experience and look forward to more cooperation'.
Madam Tetteh was delivering the 8th CUTS 30th Anniversary Lecture here on Monday 26th August on the theme: 'Regional Integration as Tool for Poverty Reduction in West Africa' and the inaugural ceremony of CUTS Centre at Accra.
The event was held in association with Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), a partner of CUTS in Ghana. Over 150 people from the policy community including many diplomats, academia, private sector, civil society and media participated.
'Regional integration in West Africa has contributed somewhat to poverty reduction though the data to support this position is not easily available', asserted Madam Tetteh.
'For sure, ECOWAS is celebrated within and outside Africa as one of the most innovative and advanced among the continent's regional economic communities.
'This is particularly in the areas of conflict prevention, management and peacekeeping which are prerequisites for socio-economic development but more as an example of successful political rather than economic cooperation.
'The establishment of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) is another critical project in the Community's drive to promote and consolidate economic integration in West Africa, and thus reduce poverty among its people. The Scheme is anchored on the complete removal of all trade barriers in the region, and the standardisation of all custom duties and taxes of equivalent effect, with the view to enhancing intra-regional trade,' she added.
She also mentioned the implementation of the joint border port arrangements which should make it less cumbersome to deal with the administrative bureaucracies at the borders, agreeing on the Common External Tariff which will hopefully take place in October this year in Dakar, should make it easier to do business with the region and the world.
The event was chaired by Prof Ernest Aryeetey, the Vice Chancellor of University of Ghana. The discussants included: Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International; Dr. Toga Gayewea McIntosh, Vice President, ECOWAS and Mr. Ishmael Yamson, Board Chair of Standard Chartered Bank (Ghana).
Professor Aryeetey in his opening remarks said regional integration will lead to competition which in turn will drive down prices meaning new jobs and additional incomes for consumers. He added that 'regional integration is the wave of the future. It will not solve all of our problems, but we are convinced that the gains to winners far exceeds the losses to losers'.
Contributing on the subject, Ishmael E. Yamson, Chairman, Standard Chartered Bank (Ghana) said: 'We must have vision and ambition for the ECOWAS sub region. We must look at the larger 300 million market of people. Investments will pursue such large market opportunities. Private sector must be encouraged to actively participate in the Regional Integration efforts.'
He added that 'more needs to be done to harmonise the legal and regulatory framework for the ECOWAS region especially the two divergent systems derived from Britain and France that exits in the region.'
'I see regional integration as a tool, not just a strategy for fixing the problems and challenges of the region. It should become ECOWAS of the people of West Africa. The ECOWAS as a vehicle is being fixed with a tool box. Tools are not only used to solve problems, but are used to add value to a product or process, such should be our approach to adding value to ECOWAS', said Dr. Toga Gayewea McIntosh, Vice President, ECOWAS. 'We need to study the costs of non-integration for which we will establish a working group'.
'We had done a study on the costs of economic non-cooperation in South Asia two years ago which showed gain of US$2bn to consumers if tariffs were rationalized. This could result in 20mn new jobs and substantial lowering of consumer costs. We will be happy to do a similar study for the ECOWAS region, where we have many research partners', said Mr Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International.
'Through establishing its centre in Accra, CUTS aims to strengthen its approach of promoting South-South Cooperation in the whole of Sub Saharan Africa, other than sharing our knowledge and skills in Ghana and the West Africa region.
'India is cooperating with most countries in Africa and it has a shared legacy of colonialism, and its cooperation will continue in the area of skill building and soft infrastructure. At CUTS, we are working with the Government of India in the Indo-Africa Cooperation Framework. Furthermore, through the framework of trilateral development cooperation, we are also working with several western bilateral donors', said Mr Mehta in his closing remarks.
CUTS Assistant Director, Kshitiz Sharma proposed the vote of thanks and said that our work is complimentary to governments and intergovernmental organisations. 'We bring in the critical dimension of civil society participation in policy making and immersion which leads to sustainable solutions'.
Office address: No 30 Oroko Avenue, near Accra Teacher Training College, Kokomlemle, Accra, Ghana; Email:[email protected]; Tel: +233243920926
Appiah Kusi Adomako
Consumer Unity and Trust Society-(CUTS)
No 30 Oroko Avenue (Near Accra Central View Hotel and ATTC Kokomlemle), Accra,
Phone: +233 24 392 0926 |
Email: [email protected] | Skype: appiahkusi
Website: www.cuts-international.org (CUTS International)