Page 1

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS


The Journey so far By Fidelis Adele


he Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is 38 years old since the Treaty of Lagos which gave birth to its formation was signed, pioneered by the visionary leaders of Nigeria and Togo. ECOWAS has recorded tangible achievements for a region characterized by diverse cultural and colonial backgrounds. However, as expected with every regional group striving to achieve regional integration, it has had its own fair share of criticisms and challenges. The Treaty establishing ECOWAS has since been revised but the overall aims remain to raise the living standards of its 300 million citizens by promoting cooperation and integration thereby, leading to the establishment of an economic union of West Africa, and to

enhance economic stability and foster better relationships among member states through the harmonization and coordination of national policies to create a free trade zone. Over the years, ECOWAS and community institutions have undergone transformational transition in structure and strategy in response to the challenges of the times and the global trend, hence the “Vision 2020” as it tries to accelerate its integration programmes. A former President of the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador James Gbeho, is quoted to have said, the new direction “is to transform the region from an ECOWAS of States into an ECOWAS of people living in a peaceful and secured environment and benefitting from the abundant resources and potentialities of our region.” However, “the greatest challenge facing the Commission is the hypocritical attachment of member states to national sovereignty while at the same time canvassing for regional integration,” says Adebusuyi Adeniran of Africa Portal. There is also the lack of political will to harmonize national policies and statutes into an integrated framework to advance the socio-economic integration course.

ECOWAS does not need more protocols and new institutions lamented a group of journalists from the sub-region brought together recently under the auspices of the DW Akademie on the need to place more emphasis on reporting on regional integration. Even though the ECOWAS policy on a common passport for the entire sub-region has been in place since 2005, the Protocol on Free Movement which was conceived as an instrument to enable free movement of ECOWAS citizens within the sub-region, free movement of persons and goods is yet to be fully realized. There are cross border harassments, multiple checkpoints, possible arrests if bribes are not offered to immigration officers, to name but a few. There is the West African Monetary Agency (WAMA) charged with the responsibility of creating a common platform for the harmonization of monetary policies and programmes between the West African

Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI) for the eventual creation of a single currency for the region. But with all the aforementioned institutions, the ordinary businessman still faces painstaking challenges when dealing with foreign exchange. It will be reliving for the financial institutions within the sub-region if mandated to accept each other’s currency without the troubles of first converting to US dollars. Dr. Eunice N. Egbuna, Director of Financial Integration for WAMI is of the opinion that the proposed single currency “Eco” when in full

operation will enhance the ease of doing business within the region.    It is worthy to note that since the adoption and application of the ECOWAS Mechanism (1999) and the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001) there has been “Zero Tolerance” to power obtained by undemocratic means, hence being able to restore order through a combination of sanctions and suspension of membership as in the case of Guinea, Niger and Cote d’Ivoire. The ECOWAS monitory group (ECOMOG) has been one of the success stories of the organization

• Fidelis Adele



which has helped resolve internal conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone. More recently, Nigerian-led ECOWAS forces - with pledged forces from Benin, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Togo - are presently helping restore normalcy in Mali, although ECOWAS standby force proposal is far from been established as member states are yet to fulfill their pledges. Overall, ECOWAS is on the right path and only requires the commitment of leaders within the sub-region to take regional integration to the next level.  

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

‘Our ECOWAS, Their ECOWAS’ By Damilola Oyedele


or 28 year old Samuel, a mobile phone accessories seller in Oxford Street, Accra, the plans and objectives of ECOWAS exist only on paper. He is aware the body is an organisation made up of countries in the West African region with the objective to boost the economy of its members and ensure easy movement among the people. Samuel, who declined to give his surname, understands the regional and economic integration agenda of ECOWAS. He however thinks the

feasibility of full implementation for the vision is low. “It would be good as long as they can take decisions together and are not influenced by the Western world. in Ghana for example, the government is not doing enough for the people, they are only concerned about the people that voted for them. So how can they be concerned about bringing the region together?” he asked. Samuel has not tried to visit any of the ECOWAS countries. His friends have told him how difficult the experience is, even with the ECOWAS passport. But Dennis Adutwum is more

optimistic. He is the Manager of Woodin fabric outlet in Oxford street. With Nigerians as his biggest clients, he would like to see some of the protocols, especially those bordering on free trade and free movement to be in full implementation mode. “The trade barriers have to be removed by each country so that trade can be expanded. Nigeria has very strict and rigid policies as regards the importation of fabric, which is a major commodity from Ghana to the rest of the subregion,” he lamented. Woodin has the option of opening an outlet in Nigeria, but

the regulation is that a manufacturing plant has to be established three years after opening an outlet, a condition which Adutwum thinks may be hard because of the bureaucratic and energy cost of doing business in Nigeria. By virtue of his job, Adutwum has travelled around the region and discovered that while travelling by air is with less stress, a traveller experiences too many check points accompanied by harassment from local border officials when travelling by road. To these people and others whose opinions were randomly sampled, the objectives of ECOWAS remain the lofty ideas and dreams of the leaders of the sub-region states. The commission says it is working to transform from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of the people, but many barriers remain in place which hinder the actualisation of set goals. Some of these barriers include internal trade policies, rising sense of nationalism, mistrust of other ECOWAS citizens and language barriers. Ghana’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ambassador Kwesi Quartey speaking recently in Accra to a group of journalists from the sub-region who were on a training by  DW Akademie, said the advantages of integration outweigh its disadvantages for each member state. “It is a market of 300 million people and we can benefit from economic connection. Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria can harness their cocoa and between

them affect the world price,” he said. Quartey added that the LagosAbidjan highway is under construction while the rail network project to connect the sub-region may be delayed because its execution entails huge investments. The Minister admitted that there are threats which accompany regional integration such as easy movement of criminals or terrorists, small arms and light weapons smuggling and illegal migration; these are however not enough to label citizens of any country in bad light. One key element for the integration process is the actualisation of the Eco which is a single currency for the region with a roll out date of January 2015. There are however indications that the deadline may be shifted again after two shifts in 2003 and 2009, unless the leaders of ECOWAS can muster the political will to see to its actualisation. The Director for Financial Integration for the West Africa Monetary Institute (WAMI), Dr. Eunice Ngozi Egbuna, said there is a weak integration for convergence criteria. One of such criteria is the establishment and take-off of the West Africa Central Bank (WACB) which is proposed to be headquartered in Accra with an initial capitalisation base of US$200 million. A Retired Controller General of Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), Mr. George Adomolga, who spoke with this reporter on Oxford street, does not put the

• Oxford street, Accra. Credit: Damilola Oyedele

sole blame for the failure of the integration process on the leaders. The penchant by some unscrupulous people in the region to attempt to cross borders with out-rightly fake passports or passports with evident photo substitution has led to more caution by member states resulting in tighter border patrols, he said. Adomolga, whose son is married to a Nigerian, added that an ECOWAS citizen still has to prove that he/she has sufficient funds for his visit to another state in the sub-region as in spite of the protocols, he/she should not be a liability to that state. “You cannot say because you an ECOWAS citizen, it is okay to attempt to smuggle goods into another ECOWAS country without paying the duties that you may be required to pay. The economy of that country would be destroyed, if they allow that,” he argued. ECOWAS leaders have their work cut out for them to make the citizens feel the impact of being members of an organization that is working for the regional and economic integration of its estimated 300 million people.

• Damilola Oyedele



Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

• Credit: Emmanuel Quaye

Freedom of Movement: A Challenge for ECOWAS By  E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor


HE regional organization Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was established in May 1975 with the purpose to promote socio-economic freedom for West Africans. But it appears that the dream of achieving the free movement within the sub region is far from reality. The ECOWAS is comprised of 15 member states: Benin,

Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.   The ECOWAS Treaty of 1975 clearly acknowledged the need to authorize and maintain intra-regional trade migration as a way of balancing and optimizing resource allotment and development at the regional level. Article 2 section2 (d) of the Treaty says: “The


Community shall by stage ensure the abolition as between the Member States of the obstacles to the free movement of persons, services and capital.” This objective was strengthened in the ECOWAS’ Protocol on Free Movement, relating to free movement of persons, residence and establishment, signed in Dakar, Senegal on 29th May, 1979. Article 2 of the Protocol categorically states that: All ECOWAS citizens have the right to enter reside and live in

the territory of member states. This protocol is an essential part of making a single regional socioeconomic space come true, where all citizens can benefit from opportunities in member states, including the utilization of services, access to coastal areas by landlocked member states, and, most significantly, unrestricted freedom of movement within its member states. However, free movement of persons and goods within the sub-region has not been fully realized. Incompatibilities in immigration and customs policies and monetary zones among member states have obstructed migration and integration within the subregion. Due to these challenges there still is a long way from “ECOWAS of States” to “ECOWAS of People,” in which the people would be the focus of regional merger, rather than the state. Also, regardless of the introduction of a common ECOWAS passport among its members’ citizens for the purpose of free movement within the region, travelers are finding it very challenging to move freely from one country to another. Migrating citizens within ECOWAS member states continue to experience

routine intimidation and harassment by security officers along the common borders. For instance, custom threats of arbitrary arrest and denial of passage if bribes are not paid are still common, even though the ECOWAS policy on a common passport for the entire sub-region has been in place since the early parts of 2005. Businesswoman Lorpu Kollie told about her experiences at borders recently in Monrovia at a news conference. Lorpu Kollie is secretary general for an organization of local market women in Liberia. She sells African clothes produced in Guinea, and claimed that traveling for as marketers within ECOWAS Countries by roads is problematic. She noted that despite being ECOWAS’ passport bearer, harassment and intimidations from security officers along the borders’ points are rampant and uncontrollable. “After every 30 minutes of drive there is a security check point where security officers -immigration and police officers- will demand money from drivers and passengers and if we don’t give the amount they ask for, they immediately make us stop the journey. We are forced to pay in order for us to have a free and safe passage. I think the heads of states should do


something about it or else we, the marketers, will find it very difficult to transport our goods to other countries.”, she said. According to her, such practice by the security officers within is frightening and embarrassing for the sub region. “Traveling by land within ECOWAS States is annoying, especially with security officers collecting money at every checkpoint. As a result, we don’t generate much profit as anticipated,” Lorpu Kollie detailed her experience. The businesswoman explained that she now prefers to fly in order to avoid harassment at checkpoints. According to a Nigerian news alert, The Africa Portal, between Badagry (the exit point from Nigeria to Benin) and Noe (the entry point from Ghana to Cote d’Ivoire), there are an estimated 120 border posts and security check points. Despite these challenges, ECOWAS looks to strengthen regional migration and the integration process.

• E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Breaking the Bottlenecks of Economic Integration By Richard Annerquaye Abbey


or the 38 years that the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) has been existence, one agenda has also been on the cards. Trade liberalization. Despite the continuous arguments for the removal of barriers to trade, not much has happened. In terms of regional integration, the economic bloc has lagged behind in expectations, and many political commitments have either not been translated into policy and regulatory reforms, or reforms are not implemented. The region thus remains loosely integrated, with existing tariff barriers and substantial non-tariff barriers. The Free Trade Area (FTA) governs intra-trade relationships since there’s no functioning customs union — and the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) is at the heart of the FTA. Under the ETLS, preferential tariffs for intraregional trade have been set to 0 percent, and products should not face any quantitative restriction. Although established in 1983, the

ETLS was not launched until 1990 and was re-affirmed as part of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty in 1993. Technically, the revised treaty covers all products of community origin, and aims to ensure free movement of goods and persons within ECOWAS region.

The Ghana and Nigeria example According to United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database, the economies of Ghana and Nigeria make up 61 percent of


population, and 68 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of ECOWAS. The two countries are closely linked, with bilateral non-oil trade between the two countries increasing from a region of about US$15 million before 2000 to more than US$130 million in 2010, according to COMTRADE. In achieving freer trade and deeper integration as well as facilitating trade flows between the two biggest countries in the subregion, it would be critical to implement existing commitments in both Ghana and Nigeria. Getting

policies right in these two large and dynamic economies should be a priority within a policy dialogue that focuses on regional integration in West Africa because it will likely become a catalyst for deeper integration across that region. The ELTS requires companies to show that their products meet the restrictive rules of origin specified under the scheme. Every product a company intends to export must be registered under the scheme. However, many private sector operators say this process is cumbersome and takes between 4-6 months, resulting in a low number of registered products. Thus, 1,100 companies had registered only about 3,200 products by 2006, 1,326 of which are from Nigeria and 800 from Ghana, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria. A preferred trader system that allows faster border crossing for such enterprises has also been agreed, but has not been fully implemented. Apart from these daunting trade restrictions, most exporters from particularly Ghana have reported of instances payment of substantial charges to transit through Togo and Benin as well as make large unofficial payments in those countries before being allowed to pass. Some of the exporters include them in the general transport allowances they pay to transporters. Informal payments at roadblocks add to these costs. A 2010 West Africa Trade Hub (WATH) report refers to these payments, which seem to relate to vehicle inspection certificates (annually in Benin but per trip in Togo). In Togo, transporters also complained about extensive delays

in obtaining documentation at borders, having to pay escort fees among others. Also, 2011 WATH report on Benin maintained that transit goods are subject to accumulated taxes of more than 6 percent as well as a customs escort fee of more than US$100 per truck, even where container seals are correctly applied. These practices at Togo and Benin borders not only contravene WTO treaties, but also the ETLS protocol that provides for free movement of goods, services, and persons.

Realizing trade liberalization A FUNCTIONAL ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) will be the first step to achieving a functional ECOWAS-wide Free Trade Area (FTA), which allows companies in the region to benefit from larger markets, increase specialization, and integrate into regional supply chains. This will then promote growth, create employment, and increase productivity as a first step to competing in more established global markets. To ensure credibility, it will be important to demonstrate that the FTA can be implemented effectively before applying the Common External Tariff and achieving a customs union. In May 2013, Ministers of Finance in ECOWAS adopted a regional CET that will pave way for the creation of the common customs union. Since 2007, government officials in Ghana and Nigeria have been meeting to address bilateral trade issues, whereas Nigeria is pushing for a better treatment of its traders living in Ghana, Ghana is concerned about difficulties in accessing Nigerian


• Richard Annerquaye Abbey

market. The two countries drafted a bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement stating that both countries “agree to fully implement the ECOWAS protocol on the Free Movement of Goods and Services, otherwise referred to as chapter VII of the revised ECOWAS Treaty of 1993,” which will facilitate free flow of trade between the countries, while complying with the rules of origin as defined in the ECOWAS protocols. Being the two largest economies of the sub-region, a regional integration hinged on the two countries would go a long way in boosting the economic prospects of the whole region. It must also be noted that any such move will could equally have positive spillover effects for Togo and Benin who lie in between them. There is no doubt the success of economic integration in the region is heavily dependent on the efforts of Nigeria and Ghana. Hence these two countries must take the initiative and ensure agreed policies such as Common External Tariffs are implemented to the core and any artificial barriers are removed to pave way for the region’s growth.

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Integration & Money

• Asiedu's Foreign Exchange Bureau has stood the test of time. Credit: Wade C.L. Williams

The Story of a Common Currency in West Africa 1999 to establish a Fast-Track approach to economic and monetary integration in West Africa. Robert E. Asiedu is a businessman in HE Economic Accra involved in the currency Community of West Exchange business and for him the African States issue of a single currency for established 38 years member states even though a good ago promises to idea is still far from reality. transform itself from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of “For me I know that it has been on the table for a while but then people. because of the African economicsThis pledge means more pragmatic our economies are not the same,” approaches to regional integration says Asiedu. through common trade and free The businessman who owns the movement of its people. Qwick Bureau D’Change in the At the height of all its efforts at busy commercial district of Osu on integration ECOWAS through the Oxford Street says, he has been Heads of State and Government of resolved in Lomé, Togo in December involved in currency exchange for fifteen years now but the issue of integration as it relates to currency exchange is still a problem especially with currencies from struggling economies. He said for a country like Liberia with a GDP per capita of US$ 700 to merge with Ghana which is a middle class economy with a GDP per Capita of US$ 3,500 in 2012 (CIAWorld fact book)in terms of currency harmonization will be difficult. “If you look at Ghana integrating with Liberia, it is going to take Liberia a very • Traders and shoppers on long time in terms of coming Accra's busy Oxford Street, along with all the indices a hub of regional trade.

By Wade C. L. Williams and Abibatu Kamara


Credit: Wade C.L. Williams


before we can really go on.” No change for some Asiedu says that even though Ghana is a hub of trade for many in the region not all the currencies of member states of ECOWAS can be readily exchanged on the currency Market despite talk of integration heralded by the regional body. “The only currency that is worth exchanging in West Africa is the CFA the West African Type- the one from Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso , Togo, Benin,” he says. “The next one that you can talk about is Naira which is picking up now because of the increase of trade between Ghana and Nigeria.” The currency trader who talked to visiting journalists from the region during a busy working day says that there are some days that some Africans in the region and from other parts of the continent come into his bureau asking for change of their currencies into the Ghanaian Cedi. He said these West Africans are turned away as there is no value for their currencies on the Ghanaian Market something he says make regional integration more difficult. “It is basically because we’ve not been trading among ourselves and we tend to rather change into the foreign currencies rather than come here and then change because we don’t really have a stable rate to change for the currency,” he said. One Currency ECOWAS created a platform for any two or more countries in the sub-region to

implement any aspects of the ECOWAS integration programs through the establishment of a single currency. In 2000, the regional body declared its intention to accelerate the economic integration of the region by creating a second monetary zone, the WAMZ (West African Monetary Zone) in addition to the WAEMU (West African Economic and Monetary Union). Both zones would in the final stage merge so as to create a single currency for all ECOWAS states around 2020 including Anglophone West Africa and Francophone West Africa). Leaders in ECOWAS member states say they have a solution to the region’s economic woes as it relates to free trade. The West African Monetary Institute (WAMI) says its mission is to undertake preparatory activities towards the establishment of the West African Central Bank (WACB) which will eventually lead to the launching of the single currency to be used by all member states as a legal tender. “We will have the introduction of the ECO which is the currency for the region; the currency design was completed in 2012 and the introduction is slated for January 2015,” says Mrs. Eunice Ngozi Egbuna Director of Financial Integration at WAMI. Foreign currencies top Assurances by WAMI that a currency will be readily available in 2015, has been welcomed by Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey Executive Director of the West African Think-tank Institute for Democratic Governance

(IDEG) based in Accra even though he thinks the timeframe is too short. He says conditions for the current common currency that will control inflation to ensure microeconomic stability is a good thing for the enhancement of conditions for integration in the region. “But generally common currencies are good as legal tender that facilitates transactions moving from one place to the other and it strengthens the idea that we are one people using one currency. We have a long way, I think our economies are too weak to roll it out quickly,” he says. “I’m not sure how soon it will be because the foreign currencies are more recognized-the US dollars, Pound Sterling and Euros in West Africa “. But Asiedu the money exchanger thinks the introduction of a single currency by ECOWAS through WAMI needs to come with more concrete assurances because the region is currently saddled to relying on foreign currencies like the United States Dollars and the Euros to determine the value of currencies in the region. Continued Asiedu: “It • Abibatu Kamara


means that you need to rather be working for the foreign currencies to pick-up before you have to buy Euros, you have to buy dollars and if you want to increase rates among ourselves, you have to go for someone’s currency.” WAMI says the process of a single currency and the setting up of a common Central Bank is already gaining tremendous steam as WAMI has been able to set an initial capital for the Bank at US$ 200 million though the cost for the headquarters project cannot be easily projected. As the issue of integration becomes key on the agenda of ECOWAS and the African Union many in the region are hoping that the issue of weak economies will be adequately addressed through the strengthening of trade among states with the currency harmonization made a priority something WAMI itself remains optimistic about. “A lot of progress have been made and needs to be made for us especially on the qualitative and quantitative benchmarks,” says Mrs. Egbuna. “2015 is the deadline for the realization of this one currency program and it requires the political will of everybody in all our member countries for us to achieve this.” While West Africa waits for the introduction of this new currency, the region can only trade with the various currencies of the Anglophone countries which include Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria and the CFA that is used by the Francophone countries like Togo, Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

• Wade C. L. Williams

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Tabulation in African Elections A Problem By Enoch Darfah Frimpong


HE Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) has called for reforms in the way election results are tabulated in many African countries. According to the institute, there are flaws in the processes of tabulation, which makes room for manipulations and fraud when election results from polling stations are being aggregated. After the close of every poll votes are counted, the Election Day results from individual polling

stations are sent to a central location facility for processing. This is what is called tabulation. The results are consolidated in the presence of the representatives of parties and candidates and election observers and a winner is declared. The aggregate results of polling stations, gives constituency results and the aggregate of constituencies gives the national results. According to IDEG, looking at what happens in one polling station, does not tell you the full story. Sharing his perspectives on regional integration with a group of journalists from West Africa, as part

of a training programme organised by the DW Akademie in Accra, the Executive Director of IDEG, Dr Emmanuel Akwetey proposed that civil society should make available more election observers in the tabulation processes. “Going forward, one of the areas African elections would have to focus on is in the tabulation. A lot of attention would be needed there. It should engage the next phase of the struggle of reform on the continent”, Dr Akwetey, a governance expert said. He noted that during elections, many observers concentrated more on voting during the day and that

• Credit: Emmanuel Quaye


at night when the results are being tabulated, many of them get exhausted and are unable to follow proceedings properly. “...we are proposing to divide observer groups into two, so that one can observe during the day while voting is underway and the other can concentrate on the tabulation,” he said. He maintained that many election disputes on the continent in recent times touched on tabulation and not necessarily on the casting of votes. Representatives of parties claim that election officials during tabulation modify results in favour of their preferred candidates at the slight instance of candidate agents or observers not being vigilant. Dr Akwetey said there have been some improvements in the way elections are organised, particularly casting of votes, but when it comes to tabulation, there was still more room for improvement. He cited the Nigerian and Kenyan elections of 2007. The Nigerian general elections of 2007, which the late President

• Credit: Emmanuel Quaye

Umaru Yar’Adua won was described as highly controversial by Election observers from the European Union. The observers said it was “the worst they had ever seen anywhere in the world”, with “rampant vote rigging, violence, theft of ballot boxes and intimidation”. Although the 2011 elections witnessed an improvement, it had issues with tabulation according to Dr Akwetey, who was an observer in that election. In Kenya, the post-election 2007 demonstration and violence which led to a crisis stemmed from a mixture of motives which included widespread perception that the count of the presidential election was modified in favour of President Mwai Kibaki. Dr Akwetey said there were issues with how tabulation was done in Ghana as well in the 2012 elections hence the election petition which was pending at the Supreme Court. The opposition political party has alleged that results from some polling stations show a discrepancy with the number of ballot papers issued, total votes cast and voters verified biometrically. The Electoral Commission and the ruling party have denied the allegations but the opposition has petitioned the Supreme Court of Ghana asking for votes from such polling stations to be annulled. Dr Akwetey maintained that in general, the conduct of the elections —people queuing, voting, the peace around it, the determination and making sure that the right thing was done for everybody-happens except that “after we have counted the votes and ballot papers are being moved to tabulation centres for additions, that is where things happen”. He said his observation in the recent Kenyan elections showed that Kenyans were very exceptional, better than Ghanaian voters.


• Enoch Darfah Frimpong

“Look, Ghanaian voters are very impatient when you delay a little… the Kenyans deal with themselves with so much respect and gentility. When they had done such a good job, when it got to tabulation, all their equipment collapsed”. He said between the returning officer and what was happening in constituencies, there was a whole space, so that integrity of the returning officer was not enough to guarantee that the right thing would be done at every stage to declaring final results. And so a lot of attention would be needed there, he stated. On how different African countries have been peer reviewing their elections, he said Ghana had been organising its elections in a way that had generally been improving and setting standards on the continent. He said the standards were high and also as part of the integration, election observation had also provided a way of doing peer review and standardising democratic regimes. “After the Nigerian elections, one of the important things that was set in Nigeria by civil society was to monitor voting and tabulation, thereby setting up the civil society election situation room where monitoring is co-ordinated. He said because of what happened in the Nigerian elections and the improvements later on, credibility was restored and it influenced what happened in Monrovia.

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Achieving Press Freedom: Self-censorship Hampering the Media By Fidelis Adele


ccording to the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), a global network of organizations defending and promoting freedom of expression, the last decade has witnessed a rapid increase in the adoption of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws throughout Africa. While only one law was passed in 2000, in 2013 the number was to eleven. But implementation of the laws remains very challenging.

Freedom of Information law allows for the full or partial disclosure of information and documents controlled by government and institutions. “The regional perspective on press freedom is improving compared to what used to be in the 90s and early 2000s”, says Sulemana Braimah, Deputy Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). “But it is not yet in the state we wish, this is due to conflicts, political instability and terrorism insurgence in the region.” Speaking with a group of journalist Braimah said, “Journalists

have to do self-censorship as it is not everything you can put out there for the reading public, otherwise you become targets for attacks.” As an example of such attacks Braimah cites the bombing of the office of Thisday newspaper in Abuja by a terrorist group known as Boko Haram in 2012. ECOWAS has drafted the so called, ‘Supplementary Act on a Uniform Framework for Freedom of Expression and Right to Information’. On adoption it will provide a basis for laws on freedom of expression and right to information. The draft will set the conditions for the reform or repeal of anti-free expression legislation in ECOWAS member states. The MFWA has been at the forefront of advocating for the repeal of laws that restrict the space for free expression within the region, he maintained. Again, Braimah was concerned and disappointed by the development in Liberia where President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was first to sign a freedom of information act in Africa, but afterwards failed to support media freedom, despite initially receiving international accolades for passing the FOI law. He was also concerned by the situation in Guinea and The Gambia, which are, in his opinion, the worst in the region, and where journalists are constantly harassed and their rights violated.

“Togo has not been a stable country in terms of press freedom and since last year conditions have started to deteriorate. There was an attempt by government to introduce a new legislation which gives more power to the regulatory body. Burkina Faso remains a closed society, and as such not much information about them concerning violations are reported, not meaning that they do not exist. I believe there is some form of self-censorship,” he further noted. However Braimah sees a ray hope. “Ghana and Cape Verde are the only countries which enjoy some level of press freedom, and are rated by Press Freedom index as free countries. Liberia, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Niger and Benin are partially free,” he said. Engaging on the regional level, MFWA is the originator of the ‘Supplementary Act on a Uniform Framework for Freedom of Expression and Right to Information’ for ECOWAS. When this regional FOI act is ratified by any member state, it would grant citizens access to information even if that country does not have a national right to information law. Article 77 of the Revised Treaty of the ECOWAS mandates that all member states have to comply with the decisions made by the organs of ECOWAS or face possible sanctions. However this article is not being

enforced. MFWA is presently working with ECOWAS on the implementation. If both Article 77 and the regional

Reporters without Borders: World Press Freedom Index 2013 The RWB index measures press freedom around the world on a scale that reaches from 100 (total repression) to 0 (total freedom). Freedom House: Freedom of the Press 2013 The Freedom House index measures freedom of the press in three categories: not free, partly free and free. IREX Media Sustainability Index 2013 The IREX MSI provides analyses of

• Fidelis Adele • Credit: Fidelis Adele


FOI act are enforced, citizens and organizations like MFWA could demand freedom of information in any country of ECOWAS.

the conditions for independent media in many countries. It measures freedom of speech with scores on a scale from 0 (no freedom of speech) to 4 (full freedom of speech). International Press Institute Death Watch 2012 IPI monitors the number of journalists and media staff killed in various countries. It includes those who were deliberately targeted because of their profession - either because of their reporting or simply because they were journalists. IPI also includes journalists who were killed while on assignment.

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Civil Society and West African Integration By Romoke W. Ahmad and George Nyavor Issues and perspectives Going by the mandate of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which include improving the living standard of its close to 300 million citizens, the regional body have failed to adequately achieve this 38 years after its formation. The United Nations (UN) classifies 12 0f 15 of West African states as Least Developed Countries (LDCs). ECOWAS accounts for 35% of the African LDCs making the subregion the foremost LDC region in the world. According to Charles Vandyck, Capacity Building Officer at west African Civil Scieety Institute (WACSI) CSOs are mostly voluntary and not-for-profit in their approach and do create, implement and monitor projects aimed at fostering development in member states and enhance integration process of the sub-region. Civil society organisations include faith-based organisations, cooperatives, trade unions, academic institutions, community and youth groups. Numerous definitions exist for CSOs. According to experts, the

Harvest and Hardships issue of defining what constitutes CSOs depends on place and time, country and the existing legal framework for registering civil society organisations. Other factors include membership, mission, form of organisation and levels of operation. For instance, in a publication by WACSI, Ebenezer Odabare, defined CSOs as “the variety of organisational and informal initiatives elaborated by private individuals in their pursuit of autonomy from the state”. WACSI is a resource centre for training research, experience sharing and political dialogue for CSOs in West Africa.

According to Nana Asantewaa Afadzinu, Executive Director of WACSI, West African states adopted a top-bottom approach in driving the integration agenda. But this approach was ineffective. ECOWAS‘ heads of states relationship approach and inability to effectively connect with the citizens was demonstrated during an interview with some Ghanians in Accra, where some of them confirmed the existence of

However, with or without an established definition for CSOs, their contribution to the West African integration agenda has been significant. Dr Kwesi Quartey, Ghana’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, believes that 300millionmostly young people shared cultural background and potential unified market for trade within the region and beyond. Despite all the advantages, there are still difficulties in travelling within the region, trading and exchange of currencies of member states in the sub-region resulting in less integration as compared to the citizen-led integration process in Europe.

ECOWAS but with no or little impact on them. In some articles on the issue written by two experts Amadu Sesay and Moshood Omotosho, on the subject of West African integration, the strategic partnership between ECOWAS and CSOs, which is anchored on Vision 2020, aims at

transforming the organisation from an ECOWAS of States (and elites) to a Community of people. This vision was enunciated in 2010 during a symposium on regional development in Ouagadougou Burkina Faso. The high points Against the background of fostering integration at the civilian level, there has been growing collaboration between ECOWAS and regional CSOs like the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF); the West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), and the West African Civil Society Institute (WACSI). WACSOF is the coalition of CSOs from ECOWAS member states established in 2003 to institutionalize a relationship between CSOs and ECOWAS commission but got recognized by the commission in 2010 when it restrategized its mandates to the ECOWS of people from ECOWAS of states. WACSI’s Executive Director, Nana Afadzinu, explained that many civil society organisations such as WACSOF has been interfacing between the Commission, CSOs and the citizens. She also added that some of them have been involved in strategic advocacy efforts to motivate governments to attribute more political will to ensure a deepened and visible regional integration in West Africa; one characterized by the easy movement of people and

goods, better political ties and deeper social engagements among member states among others. Afadzinu noted that, “Civil society’s roles and responsibilities have become prominent within the region. They are increasingly being recognised as watchdogs, advocates, service providers, experts and capacity builders among others.”

sail – even after this delayed recognition of their critical role (by the ECOWAS member states) to assist in the integration agenda. In spite of their achievements and impact, civil society is bedevilled with weak skilled manpower, disenabling legal environment, and internal financial, material capacity challenges among others.

For instance, most of ECOWAS member states have transitioned to democratic governance after decades of military rules and dictatorship and CSOs such as WACSOF, WANEP, MFWA, IDEG, especially have been involved actively in monitoring and observation of elections in many of this countries.

WACSI boss also affirmed that CSOs are constantly perceived by ECOWAS member states as being overly critical of some of their policies. The result is that CSO policy recommendations are relegated to the background of policy decision making, allowed to pile up dust or simply consigned to the waste basket.

In particular, the Media Foundation for West Africa has contributed to many legal reforms and has condemned human rights abuses meted out on some journalists in the region by through legal defence programme thereby representing journalists in court to get justice for the abuse of their rights. The organisation also has four monitors in Mali watching press activities in the countries and in some other countries of the region. IDEG, according to its Director, Emmanuel Akwetey is the brain behind the introduction of ‘election situation rooms’ to monitor elections in member states. The institute is currently advocating for reform of tabulation of election results which has been identified as a major challenge of well organised credible elections in most countries. Regional turbulence and CSOs But the story of CSOs in the subregion has not been a smooth

• George Nyavor

• Romoke W. Ahmad


She further stated that, most CSOs face financial problems for their research and allied projects. The over reliance of CSOs on donor funds, mostly from Western countries, have ignited a view that they promote the parochial agenda of these donor agencies. Also, the emerging argument has been that CSOs must find innovative ways to generate funds internally. Essentially, CSOs must be non-profit so as not to been seen as having any skewed motives. In this regard, an organisation such as the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) is playing a crucial role in the strengthening of the institutional and technical capacities of CSOs in the formulation of policies and the implementation and promotion of democratic values and principles in the sub-region. But there is a need for more WACSIs in the sub-region. • Continued on page 18


Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Reporting on Regional Integration/ECOWAS

Civil Society and West African Integration • Continued from page 17

Also, the political landscape in West Africa is still constricted in spite of ongoing democratisation efforts among member states, making the work of CSOs dangerous in some cases. For example, members of the Safe Nigerian Group that spare head the subsidy protest of Nigeria in January 2012 were harassed by military men by the orders of government that perceived them as anti-government policy. The way forward for CSOs For CSOs to be sustainable in fostering the integration agenda, they must strive to strengthen their governance structures and pursue openness in their operational and ownership structures. This is the view shared by Madam Afadzinu of WACSI.

Culture Crossing Borders By George Nyavor


he French speaking West Africans call it boubou, the English speaking West Africans call it Agbada. But we all mean the same thing – a flowing wide sleeve gown worn by men in the sub-region. Regional integration for West African states have been difficult on the financial, economic and security level for close to four decades, but on the cultural level there is no

• George Nyavor

difficulty. Cultural harmonisation has already been happening among the over 300 million citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). From music to movies, food to clothes, religion to sports, the natural integration process among the people of the sub-region has been smooth. Ghana’s entertainment industry is awash with an inseparable twin of Nigerian and Ghanaian artists and actors, but also an occasional mix of Ivorian, Beninese and Senegalese

celebrities. Angelique Kidjo, Fredie Maiwei and Yassou N’Dour are popular artists in Ghana and most West African countries. Furthermore, popular music events in Ghana and Nigeria are always a strong fusion of artists from these two countries. One such event is Ghana Meets Naija, an annual music event that brings together top Nigerian and Ghanaian artists to perform on one stage in Ghana. The event is always a sellout according to entertainment commentators. Ghana’s Azonto dance has crossed boundaries, unrestricted by protocols and border officials. From Liberia to Sierra Leone the dance has gained tremendous popularity. For a long time in the 1990s, the same could be said of the Zouk dance from Francophone countries in the sub-region. The movie industry in Anglophone ECOWAS countries is dominated by Nigerian films, not because of the size of the Nigerian movie industry, but because of the similarities in the themes of these

movies and the realities in the lives of citizens living in the sub-region. The pervasiveness and unaided progress of cultural harmony among citizens of ECOWAS member states in the sub-region can also be seen through fashion. The Nigerian ‘lace’, and Aso-oke, a hand-woven cloth of the Yoruba, are used for garments sewn into various styles and worn widely across the sub-region. Furthermore, religion in the subregion is essentially dominated by either Christianity or Islam. Even though there is a significant attachment to the African Traditional Religion (ATR) in the sub-region, just like the two dominant religions, the fundamental beliefs among citizens who practice ATR are very similar. Football is the most popular sports in the sub-region. Current FIFA ‘African football rankings’ put Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria as the top four countries on the continent—incidentally all of these countries are in the West African sub-region.

CSOs in the sub-region must also work together to be able to present a strong force towards fulfilling their goals on the turbulent West African socio-political terrain. The future looks bright for regional CSOs in the push for regional integration. With an enhanced capacity to operate, the right political will, and the West African resilience the Vision 2020 can be attained.        • Credit: Emmanuel Quaye


• Credit: Emmanuel Quaye


Even among football players you find regional integration: Emmanuel Adebayor, originally from Nigeria, currently plays for the Togo National team. Floyd Ayittey and Eric Akoto, also originally Ghanaians, play for Togo. But beyond the dominance of West African countries in African football, a common feature in the sub-region is how football unites citizens of the individual states. The passion and euphoria that accompanies football tournaments is the same all over West Africa. The strong similarities in the way of life West African citizens are perhaps an affirmation that national differences are only an outcome of artificial boundaries demarcated by former colonial masters. Ethnic groups along the Liberian and Sierra Leonean borders such as Kissi and Mendes, for instance, share a common heritage—but this can be said of ethnic groups in other bordering countries as well. In 2008, an ECOWAS Cultural Carnival, aimed at promoting cultural integration and thereby push the sub-regional agenda of fostering unity was held at the Flagstaff Square in Accra. Groups from West African countries who participated were colourfully attired in traditional costumes, performing dances amidst drumming and dancing as they marched from the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum to the Flagstaff Square. But that march ended efforts at pursuing West African integration along cultural lines. However, the dynamic and natural integration of West African culture is beckoning ECOWAS Heads of States to look at the cultural heritage of member states as a strong foundation to promote real integration.

Workshop Magazine Regional Integration, Accra, Ghana  

Magazine produced during a DW Akademie workshop on regional integration in Accra, Ghana (June 2013).

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you