Friday, March 19, 2010

EPAs Not Answer For African Integration, Says AATG Director

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA(MB)-Ms Dede Amanor-Wilks, ActionAid International Director for West and Central Africa, has said that the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are not the answer for African integration. She was speaking at a day long sensitisation workshop for National Assembly members (NAMS) on the current situation of the negotiations on the EPAs.
The programme was organsied by the National Youth Association for Food Security (NaYAFS) in collaboration with the Alliance for Human Security (AHS) at the Atlantic Hotel in Banjul on 25 February 2010.
According to the AATG boss, “Africans should say ‘No’ to EPAs in their current form”. Africa “Must Unite” she declared, but this should be under the slogan “Africa unite, but not sign or give our ears to the European Union on the issue of EPAs negotiations”.
“Let us make the slogan a reality through our daily interventions and outlook”, she continued.
“Many of us who work in the civil society sector strongly believe that the greatest idea on African unification exist not at the level of the African Union, but in partnership with other sectors”, he added.
According to Dede Amanor-Wilks, 50 years ago, when the bulk of African countries were celebrating their independence, the first generation of African leaders were inspired by a project to unite Africa.
But “today we find it is the European Union that says it wants to unite Africa”, she said.
Ms Amanor-Wilks asserted that many Africans are fearful that “if the signing of the EPAs in its current form happens, then the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) countries will sink”.
“Some of us fear that signing EPAs will derail all the efforts made at the level of institutions such as ECOWAS to achieve integration, and we must acknowledge that ECOWAS has gone further than most regional econoic communities (RECS) to achieve integration”.
“Is it genuinely in Africa’s interest to sign the EPAs in its current form?” She asked. “Is it in the interest of the bulk of African producers and traders?” she further asked.
“Even worst, is it just a handful of European producers and traders located in Africa that will stand to benefit?”
She went on, “we can be sure that any integration that the European Union is proposing must be in Europe’s interest”, she told NAMS.
The African continent, according to Dede Amanor-Wilks, has been divided by six European languages, adding that this is a lot less than the thousands of African languages “we continue to use everyday in Africa”.
The problem was that these six European language groups brought identification with diverse external interest groups. The EPAs in its current form has also divided us into regions’, she further explained.
This division, she said, has made it difficult for Africa to unite, but the European Union was formed and Europe is united.
According to Dede Amanor-Wilks, the “free movement of people is one of the achievements we can be proud of in ECOWAS”.
However, she pointed out, this must be a reality not only for members of the elite, but also for “the thousands of small traders who cross our borders everyday”.
The AATG official also said that the Europeans’ interest in having the EPAs signed is not intended to block the economic partnerships being developed with China and other emerging Asian economic powers, but for “our division”.
By grouping together and integrating key aspects of our economic and social organisation, “we can say ‘No’ to the EPAs in their current form”, she declared.

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