The Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria Limited, Mr. Jibril Aku said that improved trade relations, data sharing and harmonised financial services on the African continent will help to achieve rapid development in Africa, reports Footprint to Africa.
Mr. Aku who was a guest lecturer at the Hallmark Newspaper’s Public Policy Dialogue held in Lagos made this disclosure while speaking on topic dubbed: “Regional Integration and Sustainable Development”, stressing that development, harmonisation and integrating of national and regional financial markets, including elimination of barriers and reducing risks affecting the free movement of labour and capital across-borders would fast track development.
He expressed confidence that economic realities would force African countries to integrate in spite of several failed attempts to unite the continent politically.
“I am very optimistic it will happen. Economic realities will happen. Economic realities will drive it. If political realities don’t bring it together, economic realities will drive it” he said.
He lamented that the current degree of African regional integration remains highly superficial.
He listed the limitation to include: membership of bilateral organisations; slow ratification of protocols and reluctant implementation of agreed plans; socio-economic policy divergence; limited national and regional capacities; lack of full private sector involvement at both planning and implementation; weak infrastructure; corruption and poor policy support, amongst others as hindrance to Africa’s competitiveness.
He confirmed that the current global economic trends would force African countries to integrate, citing the modest success of pan African bank, that is Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) as an inspiration in African’s path to socio-economic integration.
“In the early 1980’s the banking industry in West Africa was dominated by foreign and state-owned banks. There were hardly any commercial banks in West Africa owned and managed by the African private sector. ETI was founded with the objective of filling this vacuum and so far, it is meeting the objective,” he said.
The seasoned banker opined that the way forward for African integration lies on “eradicating wasteful or costly duplication of multiple memberships and rationalizing some overlapping sub-regional blocs; securing irrevocable commitment beyond mere political rhetoric amongst member countries of the various sub-regional blocs and punctual implementation of treaties and protocols, without inefficiencies, lapses or reversals; strengthening technical capacity; ensuring fair and equitable sharing of the costs and benefits of integration among member States; capacity for comprehensive and consistent planning, policy formulation, and implementation at the national and international level.
Top dignitaries at the event include: Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary General, Commonwealth; Prof Anya O Anya; Igwe (Professor) Laz Ekweme; Mr. Tunde Lemo, former Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)/Chairman of the occasion; Ambassador George Obiozor, Chairman, Public Policy Forum; Bola Akinterinwa; Director General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), former Chairmen, Ecobank Nigeria; Dr. Sonny Kuku and Chief John Odeyemi and a host of others.