As a founding member of both ECOWAS and the African Union (AU), and an early champion of decolonisation, pan-Africanism and the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement, Ghana has long played a central diplomatic role on the continent.
Although the original vision for a Union of African States espoused in 1963 by Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, is unlikely to become a reality, the drive toward regional integration remains a key objective in the country’s foreign policy.
Founded in 1975, the economic bloc of ECOWAS was originally conceived to maximise the potential of individual states and facilitate the realisation of the benefits of the economies of scale, with a common external tariff regime and free movement of capital, goods, services and people. It later evolved to include cooperation on matters of peace and security. The 15-member bloc of West African nations is now the continent’s leading regional economic community. The 1979 Protocol on Free Movement confers on the community’s citizens the right to enter, reside in and establish economic activities in the territory of any ECOWAS member state. The bloc’s sister organisation — the West African Economic and Monetary Union was created in 1994 to realise the ambitions of a Customs union and common currency across the region.
Through ECOWAS, Ghana has participated in a number of peacekeeping missions. Recently, the country committed troops to join ECOWAS forces to safeguard democracy in Gambia when former President Yahya Jammeh declined to step down after losing a presidential election in December 2016. The Senegalese-led operation was heralded as a success for both ECOWAS and African democracy when Jammeh finally relinquished power in January 2017 following negotiations.
Current President Nana Akufo-Addo has reiterated Ghana’s commitment to ECOWAS, stating that the organisation facilitates the economic development of West Africa. More broadly, he has noted that “common humanity requires that we form partnerships that will lead to transformation [and the] enhancement of the quality of lives”.
In February 2014 ECOWAS signed an economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the EU, which should bring considerable benefits to Accra, as it will help reduce trading costs with the European bloc. Pending the adoption of the regional EPA with West Africa, the agreement entered into provisional application in Ghana on December 15, 2016.
Ghana has played a major role in many of the AU’s key initiatives since its establishment in 2001. The country remains a consistent advocate for increased cooperation between members. In July 2016 Ghana became the first AU country to grant visas on arrival to citizens of other member states, the first part of a larger plan to issue a single African electronic passport that would effectively allow citizens of member states to move freely throughout the continent by 2020. In July 2017 heads of state, government ministers and permanent representatives of the AU were issued with the first such supranational passports.
These initiatives mark a significant step towards deeper integration as imagined under the AU’s Agenda 2063, which aims to mobilise the continent’s vast resources and use them to expand Africa’s role on the global stage. As a leader in promoting continental unity, Ghana expects to benefit from increased levels of air trade, investment and tourism.
The African Union’s Agenda 2063 aims to mobilise the continent’s vast resources and use them to increase Africa’s role on the global stage
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