West African economies need integration – Ghana president

ACCRA (Reuters) – West Africa needs to lower tariffs, enable freer movement of goods and services, and deepen integration of its 15 countries to promote growth, Ghana’s President John Mahama said at the Reuters Africa summit.

Mahama, who last month took over as chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said colonial legacies and the structure of the region’s economies make liberalization difficult, while some states were also afraid of exposing themselves to greater competition.

“Countries are unwilling to take a step into the unknown. They are familiar with the taxes they collect in goods and services,” Mahama said. “The belief in some countries is that if borders are opened up and free trade is allowed in the West African sub-region, then they probably might lose out, so that is the reason for the hesitation.”

Mahama’s comments reflect tension in a giant region divided between Francophone and Anglophone states and dominated by Nigeria, which on Sunday officially became Africa’s biggest economy when it rebased its GDP.

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