West Africa must look inward to develop economies — Human rights activist
Governments in West Africa have been advised to start looking inward to raise resources to help their economies recover from immediate crisis and restore progress rather than posing confidence in Bretton Woods institutions.
This is because there has never been a country in the world that has seen progress or growth in its economy based on the prescriptions of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
A Nigerian Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Femi Falana, who gave the advice, also entreated governments in West Africa such as Ghana, Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire, among others, to resist the temptation to over-depend on these two Bretton Woods institutions and rather seek homegrown policies to accelerate development.
At the climax of the West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA 2023) in Accra last Saturday (Nov. 11), Mr Falana, who is a Senior Advocate in Nigeria, commended the Government of Ghana (GoG) for the decision to start looking inward to find solutions to meet developmental challenges with regards to the recent borrowing from cocoa traders to finance bean purchase.
“I think this decision is commendable and so please the government must look inward and take more of such loans to meet developmental needs.
“Journalists must now go out of the cocoon of politics because they have written very well on politics and rather begin to interrogate economic programmes of our governments which have continued to accentuate poverty in the sub-region,” he said.
The WAMECA, which is an initiative of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) with support from other institutions and organisations, was on the theme: “Media & democracy in Africa”.
This year’s event marks the seventh edition of the initiative, which engaged participants from countries within West Africa with a two-day conference from November 9 to 10, 2023, and an award ceremony on November 11, 2023.
In all, four Ghanaian and two Nigerian journalists emerged winners out of the 17 finalists at the event with a journalist at HumAngle Nigeria, Muhammed Akinyemi, crowned West African Journalist of the Year.
Other winners included Gbenga Salau (Guardian newspaper, Nigeria) who won the Business Reporting prize; Emmanuel Debrah (Multimedia Group Limited Ghana) clinched the ICT Reporting category; the Migration Reporting prize went to Emmanuel Ayamga (Pulse Ghana); Komla Adom (TV3, Ghana) took away the prize for the Human Rights category; and the award for Investigative Reporting went to Francisca Enchill (Joy News, Ghana).
Eight hundred and fifty-five entries were received from journalists in 15 West African countries for the 2023 edition.
The Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Sulemana Braimah, said there was a great democratic recession in the West African sub-region.
He said in the last few years, the sub-region had witnessed military takeovers in at least four countries, making the situation extremely alarming.
Beyond that, Mr Braimah said West Africa was also going through the sharpest repression and shrinking of civil space and the upsurge of insurgency and terrorist activities, escalating the security challenges of the sub-region.
“We are witnessing a situation where countries that even have democratic governments are having weakening democratic institutions with citizens losing trust and confidence in the institutions,” he said.
The Public Affairs Counsellor of the United States (US) Embassy, Ghana, Emily Fertik, said there was no strong democracy in the world without a vibrant media and free press.
She said the US Embassy in Ghana was committed to supporting journalists in the country to play an active role as the fourth estate of the realm.
She said 2024 was an important year for Ghana and the United States as both countries head towards their general elections.
“Both our democracies and our media will face a strong test in the coming year for transparency, balance, neutrality, credibility and professionalism.
“And both of our countries must pass that test in order to remain the strong democracies that we are,” she said.
Shaping public opinion
The Deputy Minister of Information, Fatimatu Abubakar, stated that the media played a crucial role in shaping public opinion, fostering civil engagements and holding those in power accountable.
She said many countries in Africa had transitioned from autocratic rule to more participatory and representative forms of governance that were reflective of the will of the people.