President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has underscored the need for African leaders to fast-track the regional and continental integration of Africa, since it is in the best interest of the continent to do so.
He said West Africa and Africa’s projected population meant there was the abundance of market space for continental growth and prosperity.
Delivering the keynote address at the graduation ceremony of Course 25 participants of Nigeria’s National Defence College in Abuja, Nigeria, yesterday, the President said genuine regional and continental markets in Africa should be in the mutual economic interest of the people.
The markets, he said, would present immense opportunities to bring prosperity to people with hard work, creativity and enterprise.
He said with West Africa and Africa’s population set to reach 500 million and two billion, respectively, in 20 years, the process of regional and continental integration ought to be in the interest of all Africans and must no longer stall.
“We cannot persist with economic structures that are dependent on the production and export of raw materials if we are to bring prosperity to the masses of our peoples,” he added.
The President said for a continent that had made the choice of pursuing integration, “we have not done much as we should have in liberalising and promoting trade among member countries”.
Nana Akufo-Addo noted that trade among African nations remained low, compared to other parts of the world.
The President said there was the need for deliberate measures at expanding trade and business collaborations to be put in place to improve the prospects for prosperity in Africa.
“It is extremely important for the welfare of the 1.2 billion people of the continent that we, the leaders, demonstrate strong political will to make the project of integration, at the regional and continental levels, economic and political successes and make them realities in the lives of our peoples,” he said.
The President said if Ghana and Nigeria considered the benefits of the full implementation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) treaties on trade, free movement of goods and persons, customs, taxation, statistics, money and payments, then the two countries would both benefit in far better ways.
“It surely makes more sense for Nigeria to import its salt from Ghana than from Brazil. When we think of Africa before our own countries, we are not just being pan-Africanists; we are being true nationalists because what makes Africa better will make each of our countries better and more prosperous,” he said.
The EU example
Citing the European Union (EU) as an example President Akufo-Addo said “the EU, in 2016, generated nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of US$16.5 trillion, constituting approximately 23 per cent of nominal global GDP, which is the second largest economy by GDP in the world. The single currency, the euro, has increased efficiency, lowered the cost of doing business and improved transparency in pricing.
“The overall effect has been to make Europe a much stronger economic and political player on the world stage,” he said.
President Nana Akufo-Addo was of the view that Nigeria ought to provide the political leadership and passion to translate ECOWAS and AU dreams into reality.
“You have the numbers, you have the economic muscle and, dare I say it, you owe it to the region and the continent,” he said.
He said West Africa and Africa could not make the bold transformative changes they needed to make without visionary political leadership.