Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo, has bemoaned worsening security situation in the North East, Lake Chad Basin, Mali and the Greater Sahel, saying the crisis was fuelled by the high level of poverty ravaging these areas which had provided a breeding ground for Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups to recruit members.
The Ghanaian leader who spoke during a visit to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission in Abuja, yesterday, said endemic poverty and widespread disillusionment amongst youths 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 youths.”
He said the growing number of breakaway terrorist 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 terrorists and extremist activities.
He said on September 12, 2019, ECOWAS organised in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, an extraordinary summit on eradication of terrorism among member states. He said following the summit, a 2020-2024 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, $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,” he said.
On the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the Ghanaian president said 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 AfCFTA would lead to a rapid increase in exchange 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.”
Akuffo-Addo said the AfCFTA which entered into force on May 30, 2019, would create a market for 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of $3 trillion across all 55 member states of the African Union.
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.