SAN FRANCISCO, September 22, (THEWILL) – President Nana Akufo-Addo has identified poverty as a major threat to African States’ security. He 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.
Akufo-Addo who was on a working visit to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission in Abuja, said that West Africa in recent years had become a hotbed for terrorist and extremist activities. 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.
The President further said that the growing number of breakaway terror groups and the porous nature of regional borders, in addition to the 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, 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 said.
On the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), Akufo-Addo said 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 said the AfCFTA will lead to a rapid increase in regional exchange of agricultural, financial, industrial, scientific and technological products, which would promote prosperity and employment for 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 that 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 stands 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 of member States.