13 July 2004

West Africa: Ecowas Declares Support for Bauxite Mining At Kibi-Atiwa - Minister

THE MINISTER of Regional Cooperation and NEPAD, Dr. Konadu Apraku, has said that the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) has recommended that member states should jointly undertake the processing of the huge bauxite deposits in Kibi-Atewa and Nyinahin to supply raw materials for the Aluminum Smelting factory in Tema (VALCO) and the Aluminum Smelting Company at Ikot-Abasi, in Nigeria.

The Minister said this in a speech read on his behalf by the Chief Director of the ministry, Mr. James Quarshie, at the second day of the sixth West African International Mining and Power Conference in Accra last Thursday with the theme, "Integrating Mining into the Economies of West African States: pooling power-generating resources".

This statement has confirmed the suspicion that the government would go ahead to concession the Kibi-Atiwa deposit of bauxite on which the Atiwa Forest sits, even though the Okyenhene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin II, has said that the cost benefits analysis does not support the mining of the bauxite deposit in his traditional area and that he will oppose any attempt by government to exploit it.

It is believed that the proposed $2 million investment to mine the Atiwa Range bauxite deposit would create employment and bring up the development of the area reducing poverty drastically.

Touching on regional cooperation, the Minister said despite the many regional protocols, agreements signed by heads of state in Africa and the spirited efforts that had been made in the past to facilitate trade, progress at integrating African economies had been very slow.

Dr. Apraku said Africa had not yielded the expected results, as the continent still remained the slowest growing region in the world contributing only one percent of World Trade.

According to the Minister, a World Bank Report prepared in the early 90s put the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the whole of Africa at US$135 billion, which was equivalent to the GDP of Belgium, a small European Nation of 10 million people.

"The trend has not changed significantly even today," Dr. Apraku stated.

Making known the reasons for the current situation, Dr. Konadu Apraku said that the weakness of institutions charged with the implementation of the regional integration process was one.

He continued, "The capacity for monitoring and executing agreements and protocols is weak at both the national and regional levels.

But we know that whatever good policies we put in place, we would not get the desired results if we do not implement these policies faithfully."

He recommended an efficient mechanism must, therefore, be put in place at the national level to ensure the speedy implementation of commonly agreed decisions.

He was, however, happy to note that some countries had already established national bodies for the planning, coordination and follow-up of the diverse decisions and measures taken at the regional level. Indeed, specific ministries of Regional Integration have been set up in countries like Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Ghana.

He said these Integration Ministries were expected to coordinate the activities of all departments and agencies connected with the integration process in their countries.

They are to oversee the establishment and effective functioning of inter-ministerial committees, which should not just meet regularly, but also ensure that regional plans and objectives are integrated into the development plans and budgets of the various member states.

However, the minister said it appeared that efforts in human capital development had been marginalized, although human resource development and the building of administrative, technical and research capacities were fundamental in any strategy to promote regional cooperation.

The chairman of the Energy Commission, Mr. A. E Quayson, chaired the session.

The conference attracted all the big mining companies in the world, including AngloGold Ashanti, Newmont and Gold Fields and representatives from ECOWAS.

Speaking to The Business Chronicle, the Public Relations Manager of Gold Fields Ghana, Dr. Tony Aubynn said that the company's objectives for attending the conference had been met.

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