Do ECOWAS and AU mean anything?

BY: K. B. Asante

I often wonder why we have a “Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration”.  I believe at one time we had a Ministry for Regional Integration in spite of agreements and policies for the integration of African programmes.  

I suppose we created that ministry to accommodate one of the party faithful who had to be given a ministerial post.  When the post was no longer necessary, instead of disbanding it, we took the line of least resistance and dumped its officials and the like on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which was then given a bloated title which still persists.  The title jars in my ancient ears.  We should scrap it.

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The Foreign Ministry should deal with all matters affecting foreign affairs.  Once we give meaning to our Foreign Ministry and do likewise to our Economic Trade Industry, Finance and other ministries, we shall have a clearer meaning of our relations with our neighbours and other African states.  We shall then not hail Ghana and Sierra Leone ratifying agreement for cooperation.  We should be cooperating with all the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) countries all the time and the basis for cooperation should be the ECOWAS Treaty.

The old, like me, are confused when we read in a leading paper’s headlines about Ghana and Sierra Leone to ratify agreement for cooperation.  Apparently there has been an agreement for cooperation between them “to provide the legal framework for addressing their trade and investment concerns:”  I am confused.  I thought all this had provisions under the ECOWAS Treaty and later Agreements.

The ECOWAS Treaty and the African Union (AU) should mean something to us.  It should not merely provide occasions for celebrations.  Before we enter into an economic relationship with other states, we should know our commitment to our ECOWAS and African partners.  I believe this is not possible if we do not know our commitments under the ECOWAS Treaty and obligations under the AU.  And this knowledge and transmission of knowledge and obligations will not be possible if we do not keep our Ministries cohesive.  The ministry of Trade for example should know all about ECOWAS and other trade relations with AU countries before it embarks on negotiations with other countries, let alone agreements.

I am afraid this will not be easy with so many ministers dealing with aspects of the same subject with a host of officials who have not come together over the years to work together.  It is then not easy for the various ministries to agree together to promote the national interest in relation with other countries.  In the case of unions and regional entities, agreements reached within the “Union” can sometimes be in apparent conflict with national aims and aspirations if delegates who help draft aims and consensus are not that serious and competent.  This is why sometimes there is disagreement which leads to splits as recently happened in the European Union with Britain’s decision to leave the organisation.

We should take the AU and ECOWAS more seriously.  We should consider having a section of the Ministry of Trade or Foreign Affairs to deal mainly with ECOWAS or AU affairs.  These organisations should be important elements in our foreign and domestic policy if we really mean to make them work to assist development and progress.