'Effective regional integration must be people - centred'
By D. I. Laary/Mohammed Abdul Rashid
Accra, June 1, GNA - Professor SKB Asante, Executive Director of the Centre for Regional Integration in Africa (CRIA, has called for full participation of citizens in the continental and sub-regional integration process for rapid economic growth.
He expressed worry that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) integration agenda had largely been left to heads of member states without looking at how to involve people at the grassroots.
'There is insufficient participation of such key actors as civil society, private sector or the business community and the various development partners in the integration process,' he noted, adding it had contributed largely to slow process of the sub-regional bloc's integration.
The West African heads of states and government over 40 years committed themselves to ECOWAS integration process, but Professor Asante said: 'There is the lack of progress in mainstreaming ECOWAS integration programmes, arrangements and protocols.'
He was speaking at the Regional Integration Issues Forum (RIIF), on the ECOWAS Day. It was on the topic: 'Bringing west African Integration home for National development.'
He expressed confidence that Ghana would continue to provide leadership to ensure the realisation of continental and sub-regional integration agenda.
Mr Victor James Gbeho, Former President of the ECOWAS Commission, noted that ever since slavery and colonialism were introduced into the continent, Africans and the people of African descent everywhere had yearned for freedom and unity.
He said: 'Six decades after independence, we are still chasing unity and economic integration' with countries like Ghana designating a Ministry for integration, 'there is still no head way.
'At this meeting, we shall find out what has been in the way of rapid progress and hopefully be able to chart the way forward for policy makers.'
The CRIA seeks to empower regional and national policy makers, productive sector groups, citizens and other stakeholders to make well-informed policy choices for inclusive implementation of national and sub-regional development programmes in Africa.
Discussants called for the setting up of a monitoring mechanism to monitor activities in member states and also track those protocols Ghana has ratified for dissemination to the public to understand the agreements.