The formation of the West African Think Tank Network (WATTNet) is very crucial for the sub-region’s socio-economic and political advancement, former President John Agyekum Kufuor has said.
He said African think tanks could serve as catalysts for the socio-economic and political integration of the sub-region.
Former President Kufuor made these remarks in a keynote address at the inaugural conference of WATTNet, on the theme: “Transforming West Africa for Inclusive Development”.
The conference was hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and sponsored by the Think Tank Initiative of the International Development Research Centre.
The WATTNet, a network of think tanks in West Africa, was established in September 2015 with the goal of promoting socio-economic and political development in the sub-region.
President Kufuor recounted that the ECOWAS was established over 40 years ago to transform West Africa for inclusive development.
The former President noted that despite the fact that the Organisation was trying, there remained a lot to be done to realise the very crucial mission of achieving inclusive development for West Africa.
He said there was lack of commitment and resolution by leaders who should be driving this mission to get all of West Africa to become a common unit for socio-economic development to better the lives of our people.
“That commitment is not there. And so the first thing is for those of us committed to influence and also motivate the drive for the realisation of West Africa as a unit,” he said.
Former President Kufuor said it was essential that think tanks and people who see the advantage of West Africa unifying to do everything to get leadership to show sincerity and commitment towards realising the ECOWAS vision.
“But even as we work on the leaders, we should also work on the people of West Africa because even if the leaders at the top agree and will be committed, unless they carry their people along with them, I tell you it will still be an uphill task.
“And how do we get the people of West Africa to appreciating the importance of constituting themselves into more or less a common country; the United States of Africa in real terms? How do we do it? We cannot do it, if the people are not made aware of themselves,” he said.
On the economy of the sub-region, Former President Kufuor said the issue of the ECO, the proposed common currency for the West African Monetary Zone, had become an insurmountable one; stating that economic giants like Nigeria looked inward when it comes to the issue of a common currency.
He said: “We also, on the economic front, should make our people from government right down to the people generally aware of what’s happening.
“The world in terms of the market is fast globalising and one attribute of the global market that we must come to terms with is the fact that our competitiveness is the demand; so if we want to hold our corner in the global market, we should operate with global standards.
“Otherwise, we become dumping grounds. For instance, in Ghana, we have lands, we have water courses that could support quite viable rice production; but what do we find?
“We see that we are dumping sites for rice imported from as far away as Vietnam, China, Japan, India, and farmers are not able to compete with the produce from those far-off places.”
He called for the free movement of goods and services within the sub-region to help to promote its integration and socio-economic development.
Mrs Jean Mensa, IEA Executive Director said WATTNet seeks to establish a viable sub-regional platform which would enable sustained collaboration among research institutions and think tanks in the region.
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