#Article (Archive)

Can private sector spearhead regional integration?

Feb 8, 2012, 12:54 PM

The idea of unifying the continent politically, economically and socially by bringing it together culturally is one of the most important dreams which have occupied the imagination of Africans for many generations.

However, it has also been a widely held belief that the region’s strategies for accelerated growth would be led by the much-heralded, but yet to be realized, private enterprise, supported by private-public partnerships and highly selective public participation.

It has been said over and over in this page that it is only the private sector that is best suited in the sub-region to spearhead the regional integration process, since the sector is the prime mover of businesses.

Yet the sector, despite its importance to the socio-economic development of the sub-region, does not seem to have much of a voice because of what many see as its poor organisation.

African governments, especially those in West Africa should, by all means, be seen to be helping to re-organise the regional private sector to better the track record among themselves in terms of cross border trade and investment.

They should ensure that all the protocols in terms of free movement of people, goods and services, and many others are implemented.

Looking around the world today, even the rich countries are trying to come together to form bigger markets. However, in Africa, many protocols have been signed, but what is left is the implementation.

The private sector should go back and look at the protocols, know where the stumbling blocks are and try a way out.

However, in doing that, the private sector has to work with national governments and the ECOWAS Commission, so as to achieve its desired goals.

National governments should also be seen to be encouraging public-private sector partnership.

It is our humble opinion that there is no reason why the West African sub-region cannot come together to make ECOWAS one common market, where all the countries can benefit.

The agenda for regional integration has not much integrated the private sector over the years. It is high time now for the private sector to come on board.

The crucial role of the private sector is indispensable in the attainment of the objective to promote integration through increasing intra-ECOWAS trade.

The sector should be considered as the main actor in the conduct of regional and international trade, and in the production and distribution of goods and services.

For this, and a host of other benefits to take place, the private sector must also show full commitment.

There should also be support from governments to ensure that there is free movement of people, goods and services.

Marches alone won’t bring integration when human respect is in disintegration.”

Barry McGuire