I am pleased and honoured to grace the auspicious occasion of the inauguration of the Centre for Regional Integration in Africa (CRIA). I would like to thank the Board of Trustees for inviting WAMI to this event, and its foresight in setting up a premier think-tank on regional integration in West Africa, based in Accra, Ghana. Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate the organisers for holding this inaugural event and making the Centre visible following its establishment in March 2009.
The need for a knowledge-based institution for the dissemination of research findings for the enhancement of regional integration that would be successful and beneficial cannot be over emphasized. The centre would provide training opportunities on regional integration issues, set a platform for policy discourse on regional integration and contribute in shaping Africa’s regional integration Agenda. It is my hope that the birth of this Centre will unleash the energy needed to deepen understanding of the importance of regional integration in Africa, and also rekindle widespread interest in regional integration approach to sustained economic growth and development in Africa.
I am particularly encouraged by the synergy between the vision of this Centre and WAMI’s work programme. Recalling in 2005, the WAMZ Authority decided to broaden the scope of WAMI’s mandate by including trade integration with a view to making monetary and economic integration more meaningful. You would agree with me that trade integration is at the heart of real economy integration. Since then, WAMI, among other things, seeks to promote trade integration among its Member States and forge strategic partnership with organisations for the advancement of regional integration.
WAMI will continue to pursue the twin goals of monetary and financial integration, and trade integration as the fundamental features of its regional integration programmes. In doing so the Institute publishes twice a year, the West African Journal of Monetary and Economic Integration (WAJMEI) which is a scholarly journal devoted to dissemination of high-quality papers on economic, trade and monetary integration in the ECOWAS and Africa in general.
The Institute has also institutionalised the WAMZ Trade Ministers’ Forum which serves as a platform for trade policy dialogue on trade-related issues in the WAMZ, and assisted a number of its Member States to prepare their national trade policies. With the assistance from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Institute is upgrading the payments system in The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. As regards financial sector integration, the College of Central Bank Supervisors of the WAMZ has been established and it addresses cross border banking supervisory issues in the zone while efforts are underway to integrate the capital markets of West Africa.
In conclusion, I wish to pledge that WAMI stands ready to collaborate with CRIA for the advancement of regional integration in the WAMZ. Long live regional integration, long live CRIA.