Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cape Verde Sets Stage for ECOWAS-UNESCO Meet on Regional Integration

As the momentum on the Global Stop EPA Day gathers storm today, it is timely that Cape Verde would have just ended a three-day meeting, in collaboration with UNESCO on Regional integration in West Africa.

The theme of the conference was, according to this article on t he theme of "Nation-states and the challenges of regional integration in West Africa."

Ofcourse, I use the word "timely", because for those cognescenti of the EPA negotiations, the EU claims that it will facilitate ECOWAS regional integration. Progressive civil society knows this to be untrue.

But ofcourse, this UNESCO-funded seminar, under its programme of Management of Social Transformations programme (MOST) has more to do with the social implications of regional integration in ECOWAS and less to do with the EPAs.

The "specificity" of this article, to borrow from the article listed above, stems from the fact that in April this year, Cape Verde also played host to a similar meeting, where the meeting:

...examined the specificity of the Cape Verde archipelago within West African economic cooperation


Since its launch, the cases of 10 of the 15 ECOWAS member states have been analysed at national seminars in Benin (8-9 October 2005), Ghana (8-9 November 2005), Mali (14-15 November 2005), Burkina Faso (21-22 November 2005), Gambia (22-23 December 2005), Niger (18-19 October 2006), Togo (22-23 August 2006), Senegal (13-14 September 2006), Cape Verde (4-5 April 2007) and in Guinea (30-31 May 2007)

The uniqueness of the meeting was that it grouped together

scientists, political decision-makers and those involved in economic and social development with the support of several international organizations involved in social development in Africa (the African Capacity Building Foundation, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Trust Africa).

It's great to know that a book will come out of this meeting. The article maintains:

Every meeting leads to the publication of a book by the Karthala publishing house. The books on Benin, Mali, Senegal and Niger will be available at the Praia meeting, a UNESCO release said

It is expected that ann international conference will be held in AUTUMN 2008,
to produce a draft of proposals on regional integration for submission to the ECOWAS Heads of State.

We wait in eager anticipation!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Three-Day Accra Meeting on ECOWAS Free Movement--Still Valid?

As newly-elected Sierra Leonian president Koroma returns from meeting both ECOWAS and Mano River Union officials, ECOWAS ministers are meeting today, Tuesday, here in Accra.

The objective of their meeting is to discuss ECOWAS's free movement protocol.

Top on the agenda will be:

  • ways of overcoming problems militating against the implementation of the protocol

  • dealing effectively in countering the ignorance of citizens about their rights under the 1979 protocol

  • effectively dealing with the harmonisation of the ECOWAS passport, adopted by Headds of State of Government in 2000, "including the incorporation of biometric features such as digital photographs and thumb prints which not only enhance security but also reduce the possibility of fraud and forgery" (from:

  • While we can balk at CARICOM earlier this year for having failed to "secure" a free movement protocol by way of its Cricket World Cup, we can at least hope they might also be monitoring events worldwide to see how best to bring into fruition a visa-free area -- as exempplified by the ECOWAS-zone in 2007 -- where West African citizens can veritably make any of the fifteen countries their residence for a good 90 days, before regularising.

    Right now, though, the ECOWAS passport, in my view, ought to be harmonised in ALL countries.

    For it to be applicable in only SIX member states some 28 years after the free protocol was adopted is a woeful expression of where ECOWAS has gone. These six countries currently using the passport are: Benin, Guinea, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal ; the others using an ECOWAS travel certificate are: Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, The Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone

    "Fixed deadlines" and "operationalisation" come to mind in a fast and furious way!

    Here's hoping that the leaders meeting in the three-day meet here in Accra will be (im)pressed upon by us--common and concerned citizens--to come up with a date that is more definitive than one comparable to what is looking like a pie-in-the-sky date of 2009 for the ECO--ECOWAS' regional currency.

    In checking ECOWAS's news website here, the last meeting you see is that of 19 September!

    Without a google search, how on earth would anyone have known about this meeting? ECOWAS, PULL your socks up.

    You are now a Commission--and things gotta get a-changing...

    Now, chance would be a fine thing!

    Friday, September 14, 2007

    COMESA To Regionalise Power, and Ease Trade Barriers

    The relatively small weight
    of intraregional trade in Africa, despite the existence of several (and frequently overlapping) RTAs, is
    largely due to their production structure and the composition of their exports, as well as the presence
    of non-tariff barriers and infrastructural constraints.

    --(UNCTAD Trade and Development Report 2007 overview--p.XV)

    Well, fancy that! The 19-member COMESA is also looking closely at how to resolve the serious lacuna within regional integration projects in Africa--that of efforts to promote intra-regional trade.

    To this end, COMESA is looking more specifically at the small-scale trade sector--a long time in coming for MANY of the RECS--and how cross-border trade can be facilitated for them:

    Speaking in Nairobi after holding a series of meetings with traders in East Africa to discuss detailed plans of implementing a COMESA Customs Union, due for launch in 2008, Mwencha said the trade bloc was also tackling various setbacks to trade.

    My superficial reading of the review of the latest UNCTAD report on regional integration interprets some of these "infrastructural constraints" to be non-tax barriers that frustrate the efforts of traders across the region in their cross-border trading activities.

    The article maintains:

    These non-tax barriers include rejection of goods at border posts or delayed clearances.

    A solution to this is for COMESA Secretariat launch what it calls a "simplified trade regime, which will facilitate cross-border trade for small-scale traders for consignments not exceeding US$500".

    I don't think anyone can say this is a bad idea.

    For me, ideas like these are only meaningful if other regionalisms can learn from them, and obtain synergies that can create a climate of understanding on how to make regional integration more palpable and real for the average COMESA-ian.

    Meanwhile, what I intoned some posts ago on the regionalisation of power and energy projects has almost come to pass, in the sense that COMESA is promising that within the next few years, power shortage in the region will be a thing of the past.

    This is because currently in the region -- as COMESA Secretary-General Erastus Mwencha said -- there are regular power shortages that can be attributed to Southern Africa's economic growth, with increasing demand out-stripping supply:

    "If you look at the Southern Africa power pool, right now it is only Malawi and Tanzania that have not been connected. The Eastern Africa
    power pool has not done as much as the Southern Africa power pool. In the next three to four years we should have the entire region interconnected which would be a tremendous..."

    COMESA expects this regionalisation of power to happen by 2010/2011.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007

    Six Years after 9/11, US-ASEAN Relations Strong

    Forget the dodo-esque Free Trade Area of the Americas, have you heard of the Free Trade Area of the Pacific?

    Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong, speaking to US-ASEAN constituency at the recently-concluded APEC summit in Sydney, Australia, has hinted at one, as well as an APEC-wide FTA. There has even also been talks of a necessary US leadership on the Doha trade talks, especially after it floundered in Hong Kong last year:

    the US commitment to free trade sets the tone for the rest of the world, he noted, which is why a successful conclusion of the Doha Round on free trade would not be possible without American leadership.

    You can imagine how the rest of the tale goes: Singapore pretty much kowtowing to the US on its sterling leadership on trade talks; the US having confidence reposed in it by the country of Singapore on the Middle East , Israel-Palestine; and the necessity of quid-pro-quo policies:

    As for Washington’s concerns in the Middle East, Lee said that if the US is able to stabilise the situation in Iraq and make progress on the Israel-Palestine issue, it will change the balance and psychology of the region. That, in turn, will “benefit not just South-east Asia, but also countries around the world.”

    The US administration must be laughing all the way to the ASEAN region.

    Oops, I forgot it's already there--and has been for a good thirty years.

    At a time when Singapore--assuming the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN this year--is doing a Pavlov to the US, especially at a critical time for the US when 9/11 is as close as it is, the region--and most likely Singapore--can count on some heavy US support for the future!