Mr John Mahama, Former President of Ghana on Tuesday appealed to the Nigeria Government to open up her border so that economic activities can resume in West Africa.
Mahama made the plea while delivering the 7th Anniversary Lecture, Investiture into The Realnews Hall of Fame and The unveiling of the Book: Pathways to Political and Economic Development of Africa in Lagos.
The title of the lecture is `Beyond Politics: An Economic Narrative for West Africa’.
He said that the total closure of, especially, the Benin border was having a significant toll on many small and medium businesses especially in Togo, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire that relied on inter-country trade.
“I am sure that businesses in Nigeria that rely on supplies from these countries are also suffering.
“With the signing of the joint border task force agreement between Nigeria and her neighbours, I will like to take this opportunity to appeal to Nigeria to open up her border so that economic activities can resume,” he said.
Mahama said as a former Chairman of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), an Authority of Heads of State and Government, he had an abiding interest in the progress of ECOWAS and its people.
He noted that it was not by accident that Nigeria was home to the
headquarters of the ECOWAS and the largest economy in West Africa.
According to him, the import of the following quote from the objective principles for establishment of ECOWAS cannot be lost on us.
“ECOWAS was set up to foster the ideal of collective self-sufficiency for its member states.
“As a trading union, it is also meant to create a single, large trading bloc through economic cooperation.
“Integrated economic activities as envisaged in the area revolve around but are not limited to industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial issues, social as well as cultural matters,” he said.
The ex-president expressed optimism that as an economic and regional bloc, a lot of economic opportunities were available to ECOWAS and they must take advantage of them.
Mahama said: “Back home in Ghana, I also look forward to our government’s intervention that brings an immediate cessation to the forceful and illegal closure of shops of foreigners, especially Nigerians, by members of the local trade associations”.
The former president noted that the uptake of science and technology in all sectors of our economies would allow Africa to leapfrog its development.
He noted that Africa need not go through all the stages of industrialization that the developed countries went through.
Mahama stated that the biotechnology and tissue culture would allow us to multiply agricultural productivity in ten fold.
He said the use of innovation would allow the continent increase productivity and free more people from back-breaking labour and allow them to pursue careers in services, tourism and the arts.
“We must grow our SMEs and blue-collar labour. SMEs and middle-level blue-collar manpower have been the main drivers of growth in middle income Latin American and Asian economies.
“This means that our educational curriculum must be rejigged to produce skilled human resources to drive this sector.
“Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) must be rebranded to be a career of first choice.
“Rather than the humbler alternative when other doors of progression in the grammar schools and humanities track have been closed to a student, ” he said.
Mahama emphasised that despite the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), we must strive to achieve the basic goals of universal enrolment of African children in school.
According to him, nearly 30 per cent of African children are out of school. We must also work to keep them in school, especially with the girl child.
“Keeping girls in school till post-secondary means less early child marriages and also delays the onset of pregnancy till well after 18 years, ” he said.
In her welcome address, Ms Maureen Chigbo, Publisher of Realnews Online Magazine, said the online medium had kept faith with its Vision and Mission statements in the past seven years.
Chigbo said that Realnews had investigated and published exclusive stories that covered all sectors of focus, including politics, oil and gas, business and economy, women and youth, among others.
“Needless to add that the modest success we have recorded at Realnews has come with its share of challenges, especially in fashioning creative ways for sustainable publication in a difficult economic environment with dwindling prospects for advertisement.
“Consequently, I would like to invite everyone here especially those who are not already on our mail list to visit our website and subscribe to our e-Newsletter to enjoy investigative reports on topical development issues rendered in professional style, “she said.
Chigbo however, appreciated the guest lecturer for making it down to deliver the lecture, the Chairman of the occasion, Dr Mansur Mahtar, Vice -President, Islamic Development Bank and Mr Peter Obi, Former Governor of Anambra State, among other dignitaries for attending the event.