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Africa needs economic growth - President Mahama

BY: Samuel K. Obour

President John Mahama

The President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, has cautioned that political independence achieved by Africa may crumble if African leaders do not turn their attention to economic growth and social integration.

He noted that for far too long, the push for continental unity had been confined to deliberations among Heads of State on the continent.

"If the Pan-African vision is to be embraced by the broad masses of our people in cities, villages, hamlets, and cottages across the continent, we must in the spirit of democratic participation, give our people an opportunity to share in a partnership for realising our collective dream," he urged the African leaders.

In a statement to mark the Golden Jubilee anniversary of the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Saturday, President Mahama reminded his colleague Heads of State that the world was becoming a small place, and indicated that modern technology, especially in information and communication, had made the world a smaller place.

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It said it was crucial for Africans to let the Golden Jubilee anniversary of the African Union (AU) encourage them to forge a common future 'where Africans are not seen as second place.'

It noted that the AU was the single most important platform in Africa's successful wars against colonialism and imperialism.

“Today, the AU can be an indomitable force in service to the economic and social transformation of our continent,” it said.

The 50th anniversary of AU, which was attended by present and past African leaders and diplomats was held on the theme: "Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance."

The statement said for far too long, Africans had paid lip service to the question of continental unity, and in the process maintained the erected borders that made Africans foreigners and strangers in their own continent.

'We cannot speak of a true African renaissance when we continue to pursue different, and sometimes conflicting or contradictory social, economic and political policies that serve the interests of former colonial and world powers,' it said.

It, however, indicated that it was important for Africans to discard the notion that the Pan-African vision of a continental unity could  be achieved by asking countries to collapse their individual national sovereignties into a composite sovereignty at the continental level.

"It should be clear to all of us by now that the path of compromise chosen 50 years ago, at the formation of the OAU, was an indication that once we failed to achieve total unification in 1963, the actualisation of the vision of Pan-Africanism had become more of a process than an event," it said.

The statement stressed the need for the AU to recognise and respect national sovereignties, even as it progressively worked to harmonise social, economic, and labour market policies on the continent for the benefit of Africans and African businesses.

It said the structures in the Constitutive Act of the AU must not only be fully operationalised and re-aligned in a manner that would enable key continental governance institutions such as the Pan-African Parliament and the African Court to function effectively.

Recounting the pioneering role of Ghana in advancing the course of Africa and Africans in the past 50 years, the statement said from the early hours of Ghana’s birth as an independent country, the country embraced with open arms brothers and sisters on the continent and in the Diaspora.

"Ghana also used the platform of the United Nations to relentlessly advocate the continent’s freedom and independence. When the Congo crisis broke out in the 1960s, Ghana opted to fight on the side of the many Africans and comrades who were fighting to preserve the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of a sister African country," it said.

The statement recalled that the All African Peoples Conference, and the Independent African States Conference held in Accra in 1958 and 1965 respectively were not only instrumental in launching the final onslaught on the colonial machine, but also boosted the confidence of freedom fighters from other territories.

"In facilitating the process of independence as a first step towards the Pan-African vision, Ghana demonstrated her commitment to the African cause by opening her educational institutions and other training facilities to freedom fighters from all over the continent," it said.

It said under the guidance of the OAU and now the AU, the continent, notwithstanding many challenges, avoided costly border disputes and conflicts that could have easily torn Africa apart and plunged it into unimaginable chaos.

"Over the years we have also created a system of shared values backed by legal and institutional frameworks that are more in tune with the democratic aspirations of our peoples, thereby laying the foundation for sustainable peace and stability.

"Our economies are growing, steadily integrating and becoming more resilient, thanks to the substantial and unprecedented investments in infrastructure and technology," the statement added.

It thanked the AU for honouring the memory of Ghana's founding President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, with an imposing and befitting bronze statue at the forecourt of the new AU complex.

"This singular gesture is an acknowledgement of the collective debt we owe as a continent to the vision and the towering role of Dr Kwame Nkrumah in the liberation of our continent and the quest for continental unity.

"It is also appropriate, on this memorable occasion, to salute the countless comrades and patriots, across generations, who have laboured so hard and sacrificed so much to make this Golden Jubilee worth celebrating," it said.

Also present at Saturday's session were former Ghanaian Presidents, Jerry John Rawlings and John Agyekum Kufuor, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, former Mozambican leader Joachim Chissano and Ghana's First Lady, Mrs Lordina Mahama.