Dr Ernest Shonekan, Former Head of State of Nigeria, on Monday urged West African countries to collaborate and develop their human resource potential to offer them the advantages of the economies of scale and fair competition.
He said in today’s technology driven environment, a healthy and educated work force was the most critical driving force of economic productivity and competitive advantage.
"There is no reason why our countries cannot collaborate to our collective benefits in developing our tremendous human resource potential,” he said.
Dr Shonekan, speaking at the Ghana-Togo-Benin-Nigeria Business Summit organised in Accra, he said collaborating in establishing well equipped universities and specialists medical centres would not only offer the advantages of economies of scale but also provide opportunities for highly beneficial interaction and collaboration.
The three-day summit on the theme: “Breaking Barriers and Partnering to Optimize Trade Potentials,” attracted more than 200 participants.
He stressed the need for the four countries to harness their collective comparative advantages to maximize the trade and investment opportunities that existed between them.
They should also foster enduring partnerships and linkages between their business entities to enable them to exploit existing and emerging opportunities from cross border partnerships for business growth.
“But this should not be a major challenge since we have a long history of co-operation between our four countries, anchored in shared history and common heritage. This is particularly true for Ghana and Nigeria,” he said.
Ms Hannah Tetteh, Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry, asked the participants to find ways of breaking the poverty barriers among their citizenry.
She said the summit was a renewed call to collaborate efforts to enhance trade and investment among the four countries and encourage them to open up to other countries to enable them to deal with greater number of customers.
She therefore urged participants to deliberate on factors militating against regional integration and come out with suggestions to address the issue.
Mr Tete Jean-Pierre Gbigbi-Benissan, Ambassador of Togo and the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps to Ghana, said Customs and Immigration Officers in the ECOWAS countries had a huge historical responsibility to translate into reality the ECOWAS Protocol on the free movement of peoples and goods.
“However, we are not to ignore the leading role our traditional chiefs have to play in sensitising the people living along the borders to abide by the laws of neighbouring countries when going in there. That aspect cannot be overlooked,” he said.
He therefore advocated the process of consolidating the ties by taking on the task of sensitizing the population on the need to respect neighbouring countries and their laws, just like their own.
Mr Musiliu Olatunde Obanikoro, High Commissioner of Nigeria to Ghana, said the world had moved from the era of independence to the era of inter-independence, which demanded co-operation and not individual strength and resources.
He said the only way to achieve such co-operation was to break both artificial and natural barriers that stood between the four countries to hamper the free flow of business opportunities on the sub-continent.
Mr Obanikoro therefore urged the participants to brainstorm and come up with viable suggestions to achieve that desire.
In a speech read on his behalf, the President of Togo, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, said the constraints and challenges faced by African businessmen to do cross-border business should not constitute an impediment to their efforts but rather served as a springboard to define an appropriate partnership among themselves.
He said it was incumbent on the four countries to determine ways and means of rotating the hosting of the summit to foster a permanent relationship and pledged his country’s preparedness to support future summits.
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