Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday bemoaned the worrisome terrorist activities in North East Nigeria, the Lake Chad Basin, Mali and the Greater Sahel, saying that surrogates of Al-Qaeda were taking advantage of the poverty in the region.
Speaking while on a working visit to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission in Abuja, Akufo-Addo said West Africa in recent years had become a hotbed of terrorist and extremist activities as a result of greater activism of groups operating in the affected areas.
He added that endemic poverty and widespread disillusionment amongst youth in Africa were not only providing fertile breeding grounds for those who want to cross the Sahara Desert on foot, and the Mediterranean Sea in rickety boats, in the hope of finding a better future in Europe, but also for a new generation of terrorists and violent extremists.
‘This is most worrying because surrogates of Al-Qaeda in the Sahel and Boko Haram militants operating around the Lake Chad Basin, the two most active terrorist groups in West Africa, are exploiting the unacceptable levels of poverty in these areas, in the recruitment and indoctrination of youth,’ Akufo-Addo said.
Akufo-Addo further said the growing number of breakaway terror groups, notably the spread of ethno-linguistic groups, and the porous nature of the regional borders, in addition to the region’s natural vulnerabilities, called for a strong regional approach to contain the growing threats of terrorist and extremist activities.
‘You will recall that, on 12th September, 2019, ECOWAS organised, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, an Extraordinary Summit on Eradication of Terrorism in ECOWAS. Following the summit, a 2020 to 2024 Plan of Action was adopted by the 56th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government in December, 2019, in Abuja. To this end, one billion dollars (US$1 billion) was programmed for the financing of activities in the Action Plan. We have to intensify our efforts to ensure that the Plan of Action is well financed, with a view to ridding our community of terrorism,’ Akufo-Addo also said.
On the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the Ghanaian President stated that an increase in intra-regional trade in Africa was one of the surest ways to develop fruitful relations between the region’s respective countries.
He also said the AfCFTA will lead to a rapid increase in exchanges of the region’s agricultural, financial, industrial, scientific and technological products, which would enhance dramatically, the regional attainment of prosperity, and the prospects of employment for the broad masses of Africans, particularly the youth.
‘Our economies would then be shaped, not by the production, and export of raw materials, but by the things we make and grow. Hence, the importance of the AfCFTA,’ Akufo-Addo added.
Akuffo-Addo further said the AfCFTA which entered into force on May 30, 2019, will create a market of 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product of $3 trillion across all 55 member states of the African Union.
He added that ECOWAS stood to gain tremendously from participating in the Free Trade Area, which comes into operation on January 1, 2021.
‘Although all ECOWAS member states have signed the AfCFTA Agreement, five member states are yet to ratify the agreement. The ECOWAS Commission and ECOWAS Parliament should continue to engage the authorities of these countries on the ratification of the agreement. I will also play my part in this,’ Akufo-Addo assured.
On his part, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, said the COVID-19 pandemic caused a major slowdown of activities in 2020 and greatly hampered the significant progress made by the various member states.
‘We welcome the robust and proactive measures taken by all countries in the region to respond to the challenge,’ Brou said.
Brou added that in order to find long-lasting solutions to the challenges occasioned by COVID-19, discussions have been initiated and activities planned by the different departments of the ECOWAS Commission, within the framework of the ECOWAS Vision 2050, which is currently being finalised.