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Border Restrictions Hamper Economic Integration of Sub-Region - Mahami

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Bolgatanga, July 2, GNA - Mr Mahami Salifu, Upper East Regional Minister, observed on Thursday that after almost three decades after the formation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) cross-border travel by citizens of neighbouring member states was still fraught with rigorous procedures and delays.

He said the objective of integrating the West African Sub-Region economically and socially would continue to be a mirage if border regulations were not relaxed to facilitate free movement of goods and a more intimate interaction among citizens of neighbouring ECOWAS countries.

Mr Salifu made the observation when a 13- member delegation from Zorgho in Ganzourgou Province of Burkina Faso paid a courtesy call on him in Bolgatanga.

The delegation came in the company of Mr Abdul-Rahman Gumah, Chief Executive of the Bawku East Municipal Assembly, which has entered into a Sister-City relationship with Zorgho.

Mr Salifu recalled that in the early 1960s Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, President of the First Republic and President Maurice Yameogo of the then Upper Volta met at their common frontier near Kulungugu and together broke the ground, symbolizing a break of all barriers between the peoples of the two countries.

He said: "Historically we are one people. Those periods of British and French colonization have only introduced to us different languages, which should not be allowed to separate us," he said.

Mr Salifu said at present, there existed a cordial relationship between Presidents J.A. Kufuor and President Blaise Campaore and that the Ghana Government would do anything to maintain and strengthen the existing bond of friendship between the two countries.

He called for more practical cooperation in the areas of commerce and security, and further advocated a cultural exchange programme between Ghanaian students and their Burkinabe counterparts, saying it would help them master the French and English languages more easily.

Madam Hawa Yakubu, Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central, stated that Ghana had a lot to learn from her land-locked neighbour because unknown to many, Burkina Faso was one of the most successful African countries in terms of internally generated development. Madam Yakubu, who is also member of the ECOWAS Parliament, told the visiting delegation that the people of Bawku had resolved to put their differences behind them and were now pre-occupied with the economic development of the area.

Monsieur Francois Xavier Kabore, Mayor of Zorgo and Leader of the Burkinabe Team, said it was high time countries in the Sub-Region paid more serious attention to issues regarding economic cooperation and integration.

For the successful implementation of the ECOWAS Protocol and other related instruments, however, there was the need for the active involvement of the ordinary citizenry as well as Customs, Immigration and other border officials of member countries, he said.

Mr Abdul-Rahman Gumah, Bawku East Municipal Chief Executive, announced that a memorandum of understanding between the Sister Cities of Bawku and Zorgho would be signed on August 12, 2004 in Bawku.