From left: Nigerian president, General (Rtd) Olesugun Obasanjo, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Former presidents; Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzania), Jerry Rawlings (Ghana), Bakili Muluzi (Malawi) and Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia attend the African Leadership Forum 2015 organised by Uongozi Institute in Dar es Salaam. (Photo by Mohamed Mambo)

From left: Nigerian president, General (Rtd) Olesugun Obasanjo, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Former presidents; Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzania), Jerry Rawlings (Ghana), Bakili Muluzi (Malawi) and Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia attend the African Leadership Forum 2015 organised by Uongozi Institute in Dar es Salaam. (Photo by Mohamed Mambo)

The leaders who were attending the Second Annual Leadership Forum said the continent believed in integration and already institutions are in place that could drive the agenda home, but lack of leadership?s commitment in addressing challenges impede the integration process.

Former President Benjamin Mkapa started the ball rolling by pausing key questions that included whether Africa?s natural resource treasure trove was a salvation or a curse, instead of making African people rich, pointing out that they were still poor.

Mr Mkapa asked why the speed of integration was slow while instruments and great development plans that should help speed up the process, such as ECOWAS, SADC, EAC, NEPAD and the Agenda 2063 that should accelerate development of the continent were in place.

Malawi?s former President Bakili Muluzi drew attention of the need to look and address challenges such as infrastructure, communication and visa issues.

?We all want integration but then we must work to eliminate snags in the integration process? We have countries in the continent that are sending other Africans away. How can we talk about integration when African people cannot move freely in the continent?? he wondered.

The same sentiments were echoed by Nigeria?s former President Olesegun Obasanjo questioning ?how can Africa trade within the continent, when there is no free movement?

He however noted that there are some progresses made towards an integrated Africa, calling for attention to the development already made in West Africa with regard to economic integration, citing a power pool and gas pipeline as an example.

Mr Obasanjo noted that although integration would be the best thing for Africa, it might not be for the rest of the world, noting that the continent has striven to unite the continent but there has been external forces impeding the progress.

He said African leaders must be ready to pay the prices for Africa to be integrated, noting that the few countries that are ready doing that should move ahead, and the rest to join whenever they were ready.

Mr Obasanjo cited the formation of NEPAD which started with six member states but now has membership of more than 33 countries. Former Prime Minister Dr Salim Ahmed Salim noted that integration had occupied the minds of African leaders for a long time while the process was facing hurdles such as free movement of people.

?In 1991 a friend told me that it is much easier for a Mzungu (whiteman) to easily move within the African continent than for an African.

If integration is to work, we need a change of mindset from leadership to the general public. ?There have been many decisions that lack commitment from African Leaders.

It is high time that the Leaders take the responsibility to implement these decisions,? he explained.

Former President of Ghana Jerry Rawlings said African leaders must sacrifice for the greater good of the continent, echoing Mr Obasanjo on the strides made in West Africa where there is high movement of people and goods compared to the rest of the continent.

He said it took leadership sacrifices to make the positive strides in the West African region to reach where it is at the moment.

By ROSE ATHUMANI, Tanzania Daily News

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