Regionalism is regarded as crucial to the development of Ghana’s economy. A small state like Ghana with potential for rapid development needs the cooperation and integration with her sub-regional West African countries within the framework of ECOWAS.
As it would be difficult to establish viable enterprises to serve the Ghana market only, regionalism is readily held out as a key element of domestic policy.
Efficient regional integration would enable Ghana to surmount the obstacles posed by the country’s relatively limited domestic market and equally limited infrastructure, permit it to realise greater economies of scale, and enhance its ability to trade on a global basis.
It would also provide a framework within which Ghana and her neighbours could cooperate to develop common infrastructure, thereby equipping them to participate effectively in the world trade.
Ghana’s development opportunities within the framework of ECOWAS integration agenda may be distinguished.
In the area of market expansion, Ghana has been expecting the ECOWAS trade liberalisation scheme to bring about increased trade with her neighbouring countries within the ECOWAS framework resulting in Ghana’s accelerated development and growth.
The enlarged market would encourage expansion of the activities of Ghanaian institutions such as the Ghana Export Promotion Authority, Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Association of Ghana Industries and Ghana Gateway Programme.
Besides market expansion, Ghana would also derive benefits from the ECOWAS agenda relating to integration of production structures.
Harmonisation of economic policies of Ghana and the ECOWAS partners, particularly in such key sectors as agriculture and industry, would provide opportunities for economic development of Ghana, strengthen the industrial base of the country, modernise the priority sectors and foster self-sustained and selfreliant development.
Furthermore, Ghana would derive benefits from the ECOWAS agenda on the integration of physical structures. The success of the efforts to increase production and income growth in Ghana is greatly dependent on the efficient performance and effective support of transportation of people and goods and domestic and international communications. ECOWAS’s joint infrastructural programme would provide opportunities for Ghana to address the problem of disjointed physical space in the country with excessive extroverted transport and communication networks and limited horizontal links between them, which have greatly constrained economic and social activities, as well as
efforts towards economic integration and trade.
Added to all this is the benefit which Ghana would derive from the ECOWAS agenda on economic and monetary union, that is, the establishment of the projected West African Monetary Zone with a common central bank and common currency.
As regard implementation, Yaw Benneh rightly highlights in an interesting study that Ghana has, through ratification, “incorporated into its national legal order 45 out of 46 ECOWAS Protocols”, the exception being the ECOWAS Protocol on Education and Training.
While these ratifications mark an impressive achievement on the part of the country to incorporate into Ghanaian law schemes for a free trade area, the free movement of people, regional defence cooperation, infrastructural development and the joint development of regional transport and communication networks, the challenge is to ensure the effective application and implementation of these protocols.
This requires, as Benneh puts it, a series of practical measures which Ghana “ is obliged to take at the national level in order to ensure that the commitment it has made is correctly put into practice”.
Put differently, although the ECOWAS integration process provides development opportunities for Ghana, implementation challenges have not made it possible for the country to derive the desirable benefits from particularly, the foreshadowed measures of positive economic integration and policy harmonisation.
In this regard, a number of searching questions force themselves upon us. For example, what effective and well– structured institutions have been set up in Ghana for the coordination and implementation of conclusions and recommendations formulated within the ECOWAS integration scheme to enable the country derive development opportunities from its membership of the community?
In other words, how capable is Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, as presently structured, to manage efficiently the complex process of
integration to enhance the country’s development? To what extent have Ghana’s development plans, strategies, programmes, statutory state of nation addresses been drawn up with ECOWAS
regional integration as their point of reference?
What measures has Ghana introduced for the Ghanaian business community to venture into cross-border investment and transactions? And what forum has been created for exchange of views on
economic integration with the private sector, civil society, trade union and the media?
Despite Ghana’s overwhelming commitment to Pan-Africanism, regionalism and African unity since the 1920s, no effective national apparatus has been established for the implementing,
monitoring and coordination of the country’s involvement in regionalism and Pan-Africanism. Yet it is through such structures that the ECOWAS integration programmes can be made to have the
desired positive impact on socioeconomic development of Ghana.
Indeed, the current practice of merging the ECOWAS regional integration institution with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is most untenable.
This practice, which was adopted by the European Union in its early years, has long been discarded in the EU member countries, as was seen to be highly inappropriate to the management of the EU integration process.
Indeed, the focus of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not on development and integration but on consular matters and external relations with foreign countries.
The diplomatic personnel of ministries of foreign affairs is, thus, handicapped in handling integration issues, particularly as the officers have career expectations of being posted abroad to build a career in the field of diplomacy. This is compounded by the high turnover of diplomatic personnel, which is routinely sent for missions and postings abroad.
There is, thus, no special commitment to making a career in regional integration, or working hard to enhance chances of promotion.
It has become quite evident that the solution to the mainstreaming of ECOWAS integration agenda into Ghana’s national plans and strategies for effective implementation is to establish a separate ministry of regional integration to coordinate all government relationships with sub-regional, regional, international economic and development organisations.
A separate and dedicated Ministry of Regional Integration would furthermore carry out such functions as monitoring and reviewing of Ghana’s involvement and participation in integration schemes; coordination of close liaison with relevant ministries , departments, agencies, private sector or business community, civil society groups on issues of regional, international and bilateral cooperation; maintenance of close liaison with the top officials of regional, continental and international economic groupings both inside and outside Africa with a view to
exchanging information of common concerns and learn from their experience as appropriate; dissemination of regular information on activities of member countries in the area of economic integration and also publicising through the media various forms of cooperation both inside and outside Africa to the general public.
It is gratifying to note that in 2006, the East African Community, the most advanced regional economic community in Africa, which is fast developing into East African Federation, established arewarding Ministry of East African Community Affairs in each member state.
The advantages of a dedicated ministry of regional integration are worth highlighting. First, it would make regional integration and ECOWAS the centre of attention and give proper recognition of regional integration as a national priority by each Member State.
Second, this would ensure that regional policies are integrated into all aspects of national policy and that they are implemented according to plan. Third, a separate ministry of regional integration would provide the much neededcoordinating machinery in the government responsible for coherence and consistency in regional affairs.
Closely related to this, fourth, is that such a coordination would also lead to better implementation because it would place special attention on different aspects of integration and it would be overseen by a common authority.
The key message of this study is that for Ghana to benefit from the ECOWAS agenda, to respond meaningfully to the aspirations of the highly acclaimed African Union Agenda 2063 and the allengaging ECOWAS “Vision 2020”; and, above all, for Ghana to jealously maintain her highly cherished historic leadership role in Pan-Africanism, regionalism and African unity, there is the urgent need for a critical review of the merged Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration towards the creation of a separate and dedicated Ministry of Regional Integration.
The merged ministry does not give high enough profile recognition to the seriousness of the government’s commitment to regionalism and Pan-Africanism. Since the merger in 2005, the ministry has not played any appreciable role in the implementation of the ECOWAS agenda.
Neither has it organised, for example, ECOWAS events to educate citizens on ECOWAS programmes to increase awareness of the integration agenda, update Ghanaians on Ghana’s progress and challenges relating to the ECOWAS integration process.