Dec 5, 2008, 6:38 AM
It has increasingly been echoed, and it is a glaring fact on the backdrop of our national and regional needs, that regional integration is the permanent solution to the myriad of problems African countries are facing in this day and age.
Unity is needed in all facets of Africa’s strides to development. Politically, economically, culturally and socially, integration is the ultimate way for Africa’s growth and development.
The current chair of ECOWAS, President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, who visited his Gambian counterpart last Sunday, demonstrated the spirit of oneness by visiting The Gambia to show solidarity with the Gambian people and President Yahya Jammeh after the December 30th attack on State House, in line with the “African tradition”.
Other presidents in the region including President Ernest Bai Koroma have sent passionate solidarity messages, and boldly condemned the attack on State House.
In response to all these, President Jammeh has been echoing and emphasizing the importance of unity and regional economic integration among member states of West Africa, in particular, and Africa in general.
He has emphatically been calling on his fellow heads of state to be in solidarity, work together and give priority to trade among member states, instead of depending wholly on outsiders for aid, trade and financial support.
“We should really come together and engage in big time trading, instead of doing business with or relying on outsiders,” the President told Sierra Leone’s ambassador to The Gambia, while receiving from him a special message from President Koroma.
He also appealed to fellow heads of state and countries of the sub-region to come together and merge their airlines, and come up with a formidable and more thriving regional or ECOWAS airline.
This brings up memories of similar calls by an African icon, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, in his days.
Such a call for regional economic integration is not to say African countries should not work or trade with other nations or blocs beyond the African shores.
It is only saying that African countries should be selective in their global economic integration.
“Virtually all successful economies, developed and developing, got where they are through selective, strategic integration with the world economy, rather than through unconditional global integration,” writes Ha-Joon Chang, a South Korean author, in his book Bad Samaritans.
Africa, a marginalised and fragmented continent, has continued to engage at the periphery of the global economy, as is evident from the continent’s declining share in global production and trade.
The majority of sub-Saharan Africa’s 47 countries are small and least developed, according to UNCTAD, which makes integration very essential for the region.
The rationale behind regional economic integration covers various socio-economic, developmental and political considerations, including the promotion of intra-regional trade, socio-economic policy coordination, and management or development of shared physical infrastructure and the environment.
Some of the African regional arrangements also cover issues of common interest in the areas of public governance, defence and security, among other socio-economic and political dimensions.
So achieving truly successful and prosperous economies, for nations in Africa, lies in regional integration.
"Where there is unity there is always victory" Publilius Syrus