H.E Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice President of Ghana (right) speaks with IFC VP and General Counsel Ethiopis Tafara (center) and World Bank Group Trade and Competitiveness Senior Director Anabel Gonzalez (left), confer following a high-level dialogue on opportunities for ambitious reforms of the business environment in Ghana. The event took place at IFC's offices during the Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank Group in Washington on April 21, 2017.
H.E Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice President of Ghana (right) speaks with IFC VP and General Counsel Ethiopis Tafara (center) and World Bank Group Trade and Competitiveness Senior Director Anabel Gonzalez (left), confer following a high-level dialogue on opportunities for ambitious reforms of the business environment in Ghana. The event took place at IFC's offices during the Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank Group in Washington on April 21, 2017.

There is the need for strong governance structures for Africa to achieve the much desired Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agenda as a prelude to regional integration, Samuel Asante, executive director of the Center for Regional Integration in Africa (CRIA), urged here on Wednesday.

This is important for the continent to achieve higher intra-regional trade, a necessary step toward the continent’s economic independence and integration, he said in an interview after the the opening ceremony of a three-day Regional Integration Issues Forum.

“The idea of intra-regional trade is critical and we have spoken about it with the countries signing the final document. There should have been a greater intra-regional trade by now, but unfortunately we rather prefer trading with Europe, America and elsewhere,” he fumed.

Asante blamed the lack of leadership and political will for the slow progress toward intra-African trade, adding that there is also inadequate awareness about the commitments African leaders made at regional and sub-regional levels.

“How many times have we heard regional integration and intra-regional trade mentioned in state of the nation addresses by our presidents or in major trade policies?” he wondered.

The various sub-regional blocs, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) , the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the South African Development Community (SADC), need to implement a conscious strategy of coordinating with one another in promoting intra-regional trade, Asante said.

This, he said, could be done through holding annual gatherings which will bring together officials of all the sub-regional blocs in taking stock of activities and mapping out new strategies for the future.

Asante lauded COMESA and SADC in taking the lead in such partnerships among themselves.

The theme of the three-day forum is “Diplomatic Service as a Tool for Promoting African Regional Integration for National Development.”

Namibian High Commissioner to Ghana Charles Josob said the heterogeneous nature of the development of African states is one major roadblock to regional integration.

For instance, he said, some more developed countries on the continent would not want to grant visa-free access to their territories by nationals of other countries since they are afraid of the influx of people from less developed countries coming to seek jobs.

In spite of the challenges, Josob said, African leaders still believe regional integration and intra-regional trade is doable and would work towards it. Enditem

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