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Regional News of Thursday, 9 June 2011

Source: GNA

Regional Integration not yet effective - ISODEC

Navrongo (U/E), June 9, GNA - The Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) in collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission and the Ministry of Foreign affairs on Wednesday, held a forum in Navrongo to educate the public on issues of regional integration.

Dr Zakaria Yakubu, Director of Programmes, ISODEC, a nongovernmental organisation (NGO), noted that regional integration was not doing as much as it was expected and blamed it on the lack of commitment and poor communication among the stakeholders.

He said ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) countries with small economies were unable to do business together and that undermined the objectives of regional integration.

Dr Yakubu said the establishment of common markets, through the liberalisation of trade among member countries would engender improved standards of living within member states.

He explained that ISODEC has identified huge information gaps among Non-State Actors (NSAs) about free movements of goods and services in the regional integration process.

He said the NGO aimed among other things at building the capacity of NSAs on issues of regional integration towards the realization of a custom union and common market in West Africa.

He said the project also sought to empower NSAs to make positive contribution to national policy formulation and to be able to contribute on governance matters, including mainstreaming gender concerns and human rights.

"Women, who are traders across borders, have their lives more endangered, suffering abuses, such as rape, when transacting businesses across the borders", he said.

He said the project also intended to launch an ECOWAS brigade in the northern, middle and southern zones to promote border transparency index to allow smooth movement of goods and services and to find out which borders performed well or badly.

He called on the Ghana Education Service to introduce regional integration programmes into the school curricula to enable students to deepen their understanding of the issues.

Mr Eric Dalaba, Upper East Regional Representative of the Vegetable Farmers Association, said the farmers faced challenges including land acquisition and preparation and exorbitant fees charged by the Tono

Irrigation Dam and by some land owners, as well as, high cost of inputs.

He said though farmers enjoyed fertilizer subsidy, it was done only during the rainy season and were unable to get the subsidy during the dry season for tomato farming.

Also, 93market queens" preferred to buy tomatoes from neighbouring Burkina Faso, making tomato farmers in the Region lose heavily, as the queens determined the prices of the tomatoes, making it more difficult for farmers to break even.

Mr Mark Woyongo, Upper East Regional Minister, who graced the occasion, blamed the inability of ECOWAS to achieve its objectives on political instability, lack of good governance, insufficient diversification of national economies and absence of reliable infrastructure in many African countries.

He said the new vision of ECOWAS had taken ownership of the objectives, designed to improve the living conditions of the citizenry, to ensure economic growth and create an environment conducive for development and integration.

He congratulated ISODEC for the initiative in educating Ghanaians to increase their involvement in the integration process. 93Strategies must go beyond just participation of NSAs in ECOWAS activities to making obvious measurable improvements in the establishment of a common market and customs union among other things", he said.

He said the Region had started a series of tripartite relationship with neighbouring Burkina Faso and Northern Togo to discuss common problems.