People-centered approach needed to trade, security in Africa – Ford Foundation West Africa Regional Director

The West Africa Regional Director for Ford Foundation, Dr. ChiChi Aniagolu-Okoye has called for a people-centered approach in dealing with security and trade issues on the African continent.

“Regional entities must use a people-centered approach to security cooperation. This includes sustained engagements and consultations with border communities to understand and address cross-border threats” she noted.

She pointed out that this approach is critical because “a lot of intra African trade is by land and the insecurity along these routes threaten economic viability. Finding alternative routes causes delays in delivery, leading to price hikes and opens the door for exploitation at the borders.”

Dr. Aniagolu-Okoye was speaking as a Lead panelist at a session on Security and Intra-Africa Trade at the just-ended African Prosperity Dialogues held in the Eastern Region of Ghana.

She called for heavy private sector involvement to ensure that governments deliver on their promises to fix security issues in their respective countries, noting that the private sector invests a lot in trade on the continent and as such, those investments need protection.

“Private sector actors should enhance knowledge sharing and increase communication with security agencies to promote security in trade on the continent.” She said.

“We also need to train and deepen the knowledge and understanding of our security personnel and local businesses on what their rights and responsibilities are towards trade and security.” She added.

The Regional Director urged civil society to play a more active role in advocacy on security issues including trade and economic empowerment across the continent.

Dr. Aniagolu-Okoye further compared trade and security to the chicken and egg paradox stating that “we need security to be able to trade and we need trade to have security” underscoring the need for security to be an integral part of development planning without which nothing else would happen.

“For trade to succeed on the continent, security matters cannot be viewed only in terms of conflict or casualties but tackled holistically and planned as an integral part of our African development agenda” she stated.

Dr. Aniagolu-Okoye said the fight against corruption, political instability and the tensions between various countries continue to pose security risks for economic growth on the continent and the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

She further added that trade agreements such as the AfCFTA can be a means to reduce conflict and achieve security, peace and cooperation across the continent.

Other members of the panel included H.E. Omar Touray – President, ECOWAS Commission, Edward Asomani – National Security Coordinator, Ghana, Patricia Poku Diaby – C.E.O Plot Enterprise and The Rwandan High Commissioner to Ghana, H.E. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira. The session was moderated by Kofi Appenteng – President, Africa-America Institute. The session aimed to seek a coordinated political approach to advance cross-border security to accelerate Intra-Africa trade.

The Africa Prosperity Dialogues also dubbed Kwahu Summit is an initiative of the Africa Prosperity Network (APN) that seeks to bring Africa’s political and business leaders, as well as other thought leaders in Africa, together in a conference, to not only brainstorm on the all-important single market project for the continent, but to create an annual platform for the continent’s leaders to spearhead the collaborative implementation of the all-important Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.