Thursday, 21 July 2011

West Africa - The case for more regional integration

The Oakland Institute in collaboration with Action Against Hunger (ACF) have published a new Report, titled ACHIEVING REGIONAL INTEGRATION: The key to success for the fight against hunger in West Africa

You may download the Report Here (pdf).

In the report, the argument is made that if West African nations do not move decisively towards regional integration, no amount of money, development, or agricultural technology, will be sufficient or effective at ending hunger.

Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director at the Oakland Institute and author of the report asserts that
"many issues, such as price volatility, are regional by essence and cannot be tackled effectively by individual countries. Without integration most West African states will remain subject to the agenda and goodwill of international donors, institutions and richer countries.

Resource-poor African governments need to implement regional policies for sustainable food production, smoother regional trade and regulated agricultural markets.."

The report elaborates on the potential for ECOWAP (the Regional Agricultural Policy for West Africa), which is a "comprehensive and ground-breaking food and agriculture common policy in West Africa," to bring durable solutions to hunger and poverty.

My own take on this is that African governments cannot begin soon enough to take extremely seriously the question of lifting out of poverty more people from among their populations. The need for this is urgent, in a world in which populations worldwide are growing and competition for resources is intensifying. A nation, a large percentage of whose population is kept poor, is a nation that will remain underdeveloped in perpetuity. Nigeria is a case in point, this baffling paradox that is a wealthy, leading petroleum and natural-gas producing and exporting nation, which has an overwhelmingly large proportion of her people living in poverty.

China has the world's largest population, but has succeeded in lifting out of poverty 400 million of her citizens over the last 30 years, a number that is perhaps as large as the population of the entire West African region.


CodLiverOil said...

Anengiyefa, why are you comparing the single-minded determination of China's leaders to advance China, with the largely lack lustre efforts of West African nations with the exception of Ghana and maybe Liberia.

We only have to look at Nigeria to know, the leadership aren't serious. No good mischief makers are allowed to ferment havoc and chaos using religion and ethnicity and this has resulted in this state of affairs pervading many small minded people. So we are forever distracted with these minor issues rather than concentrating on bread and butter issues like agricultural food production, decent employment prospects etc.

We have seen what happed to Cote d'Ivoire. Nigeria is not far from that ugly scenario, we have even been there with the civil war of the late 1960's, but still no lessons have been learned.

This doesn't mean that regional integration should be abandoned, on the contrary it should be encourged, but this will need strong and open-minded leadership, which is lacking in the region.

Anengiyefa said...

A myopic attitude to governance and a lack of insight and foresight have plagued governments in our part of the world for decades. It is the reason for the apparently lacklustre performances that we've seen over the years.

However, the rest of the world is not hanging around, waiting for us to get our act together. The future will definitely be much much worse for our societies than the present, unless drastic changes begin to happen, changes that we should have embarked on from long ago. We are fast running out of time..

CodLiverOil said...

Another impediment, is that we all seem to produce the same things. So there is not much incentive to trade with one another. We all depend on exporting unrefined commodities, as our manufacturing capacity is almost non-existent.

Cote d'Ivoire exports the same things as Ghana. Gambia the same as Senegal, Benin and Niger the same as Nigeria (barring hydrocarbons). Burkina export similar goods to Mali.

Sierra Leone and Liberia produce the same things. It is only Ghana that is making significant strides at diversification.

People need to have ambition, satisfying yourself as exporting unfinished raw materials or exporting your labour (people), is no way to secure your future.

Southern Africa is different because they have South Africa, which has fundamentally different and larger economy that exports manufactured goods to the sub-region and elsewhere. They have a developed service sector too, so they are pulling along the rest of the SADC region. Nigeria will not be in the position of South Africa for decades (...if ever, although it should) (we are still hooked on the one product hydrocarbon economy for the majority of government revenue).

Anengiyefa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anengiyefa said...

Working together, the collective bargaining power of the region is enhanced and the fact that various countries produce the same products becomes less relevant.

My own conviction is that oil, even if it ought to have been a blessing, has been more of a curse to Nigeria. The flush of immediate cash has blinded successive governments to the requirement to maintain diversity in the economy. Agriculture, once the bedrock of the Nigerian economy, has been largely neglected and the country has become a net importer of food in order to feed its ever growing population; food imports that are paid for by oil revenues..

There will come a post-oil world someday and preparations ought to be made in readiness for that time, even as other hydrocarbon dependent economies, eg the UAE are doing. However, that degree of foresight is absent..

There is also the fact that Nigerians generally, including our leaders, are not as well informed as they like to think they are, (even though many won't accept this). I take the view that there is a need for something to be done about the Nigerian educational system, (a challenge for Nigerian universities), because it appears to me that the system is failing to adequately equip the majority of Nigerians and provide them with the knowledge that they will need to take on the challenges the nation will face, as we advance further into the 21st Century..

CodLiverOil said...

True working together theoretically should benefit all that unite, but given the liking for division and in-fighting amongst ourselves, seeing is believing.

I did mention this on your post about Nigeria post independence

Click here

That Nigeria should learn the lessons of Southern India and Singapore who have used education to make huge strides in information technology, and bio-science respectively.

You are right, our leaders and many of Nigeria's "movers and shakers" are anachronistic, the best they can do is talk of exploiting non-renewable resources, with no thought as to what happens when they are exhausted, given the shabby manner that petroleum and natural gas have been exploited, one is not filled with confidence that the outcome of exploiting solid state minerals will be any better. We have seen what has happened in Zamfara with regards to gold exploitation.

Our leaders are complacent, short-sighted, lazy and generally sub-standard (many are extremely ignorant too). I wish Nigeria well in the 21st century and beyond, but I have serious doubts with things the way they are now.