Accra, April 1, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Thursday said African Leaders were working towards making their people feel that they owned the concepts and programmes under the New Partnerships for Africa's Development (NEPAD). He said in Europe and elsewhere their Leaders were important but not central, adding that making people the focal point of the development process was what made the society tick.
President Kufuor was responding to a suggestion from Mr Ken Abotsi, President of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) that the people of West Africa, especially the youth, must participate actively in the process toward economic integration. President Kufuor said West Africa had the natural resources to turn its fortunes around and expressed the hope that with good leadership, the involvement of its 250 million people and the efforts of civil society groups the problems of political conflicts and civil strife would be overcome.
Mr Abotsi was leading a 50-member delegation of the NUGS to the Castle to share their experiences from a 10-day trip to some neighbouring countries with the ECOWAS Chairman. The trip, which took them to Togo, Benin and Nigeria, was to enable them to experience at first hand the status of integration, promote good neighbourliness and peace in the Sub-Region.
President Kufuor welcomed a suggestion from the students that French should be taught as a compulsory subject to enable Ghanaians to communicate better with their Francophone neighbours. He said using French, as medium of communication was crucial for achieving Ghana's goal of becoming the gateway to the Sub-Region as mainly Francophone neighbours surrounded the country. He, therefore, urged tertiary institutions to set up language laboratories to teach international languages.
President Kufuor the Government's priority areas for accelerated development to the students saying there was no short cut to development and that with the right approach Ghana could make it like Malaysia, Korea and the other Asian Tigers.
The priority areas include modernizing agriculture to reduce the cost of living; developing infrastructure as a catalyst for development and improving the energy situation to boost businesses. The other areas are promoting good governance to entrench democracy and the rule of law, strengthening the private sector and enhancing social services with emphasis on education and health.
He said the Government was committed to making education from pre-school to the junior secondary school level free and compulsory. "We want to give equal opportunities to children from different socio-economic backgrounds to use education to make a breakthrough in life" he remarked.
President Kufuor advised the students to use the opportunities they had to serve their nation well. "Gaining exposure through your travels should rather make you humble, tolerant and progressive, " he advised. "Showing confidence is good but you should guard against being offensively over-confident." Mr Abotsi said they were warmly received by their hosts, especially in Nigeria but stressed the need to make it easier to cross barriers and integrate cultures.