Nov 10, 2008, 4:55 AM
The Vice-President and Minister of Women's Affairs got it right yesterday when she told delegates attending the 8th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development, which is currently underway at the Kairaba Beach Hotel that the region's strategies for accelerated growth would be led by the much heralded, but yet to be realised 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. 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.
ECOWAS should, by all means, be seen to be helping 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."