Senior Programme Officer/Head, Communications Division
Centre for Population and Environmental Development (CPED), Benin City, Nigeria
Over the years especially beginning from the 1960s, most of the countries in the West Africa Sub-region have witnessed Economic mismanagement and most importantly political instability which have lead to decelerated economic growth and development in the region. Leaders of the region though are working hard towards more economic integration, would require policy options on good governance and sound economic policies to promote sustainable development in the region. Collaborative approach to research on priority areas are therefore needed to transform and accelerate inclusive development in the region, hence the emergence of WATTNet.
Launch of WATTNet
On March 1st, 2016, the Centre for Population and Environmental Development (CPED) based in Benin City, Nigeria, together with 9 other Think Tank organizations in the West Africa Sub-region namely: African Heritage institution (Afriheritage), Enugu Nigeria, Centre d ‘Etudes De Documentation, de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (CEDERES), Burkina Faso, Centre Ivoirien de Researches Economiques et Sociales (CIRES), Ivory Coast, Consortium for Economic and Social Research (CRES), Senegal, Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA), Abuja, Nigeria, Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), Accra, Ghana, Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Ghana and Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), Ghana, launched a network called WATTNet.
The West African Think Tank Network (WATTNet) is a network of Think Tanks in West Africa sub-region with the objective of promoting socio-economic and political development in West Africa through evidence-based research and advocacy. Among other things WATTNet seeks to create a platform for collaboration and cross-learning among West African Think Tanks, which enables sustained cooperation among research institutions in the region and generates quality evidence and knowledge on economic, social and political issues that feed into national and regional policy design, implementation and evaluation. WATTNet is also organized to respond to the needs of national, regional and international development actors, including institutions such as Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), West Africa Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and the African Development Bank (AFDB).
The launch of the Network coincided with its inaugural conference and was attended by eminent personalities across the region including his Excellency, John Agyekun Kufuor, former president of Ghana; Mr. Kalilou Traore, ECOWAS Commissioner for Industry and Private Sector; Dr. Coulibaly Aly Diadjiry, Director of the Centre of Strategic and Programming and Research, WAEMU; Ms Marie-laurie Akin-Olugbade, AfDB Resident representative in Ghana and Dr. Simon Carter, Regional Director, IDRC regional Office for Sub Saharan Africa. Others include all the Directors of the member organisations of WATTNet, researchers from Universities and other institutions across the region, captains of industries and allied institutions, Policy/Decision makers from different ministries across the region as well as representatives of international development partners. Professor Williams Akpochafo, a member of CPED Board of Trustees representing the Chairman, Professor Andrew G. Onokerhoraye, CPED executive Director, Dr. Johnson E. Dudu, Senior Research fellow, CPED and Engr. Job I. Eronmhonsele, Senior Programme Officer and Head of Communications Division, CPED represented CPED team at the conference. In all, about 200 participants attended the official launch and the inaugural conference of WATTNet.
Former President John Agyekum Kufuor
In his opening remarks at the official launch of WATTNet His Excellency, John Kufuor said “having looked at the topic of the conference Transforming West Africa for Inclusive Development, I remembered that ECOWAS was set up to do exactly this work more than 40 years ago. I asked myself why has ECOWAS not being able to do it 40 years down the line………they are trying but they do not seem to be making theheadway to realize this lofty and very crucial mission to achieve inclusive development for West Africa”.
Former president John Kufuor noted that there still exit lack of commitment and lack of resolution on the part of leaders that are suppose to drive the mission of ECOWAS and therefore tasked WATTNet to critically find out why this has been so and to work hard to influence the leadership of the region.
In his concluding speech, he enjoined members of the WATTNet to work hard to get leaders to appreciate how the countries in the region can benefit from each other and thereby realize the mission of ECOWAS. During the questions and answers session immediately after his speech, a female participant asked Mr. President what he thinks of women inclusion in political advancement of the region. In his response, His Excellency John Kufuor noted that politics in the region is still in a level where muscles are required to play the games. But he however proposed that the legislative arm of government should have two levels i.e. a house with democratically elected members and another with a composition of technocrats without elections. According to him even if women are not able to compete for the first house they can for the second which will be purely based on merit.
Professor Andrew Onokerhoraye Signing the WATTNet Charter
The official launch of the Network also witnessed the signing of the WATTNet CHARTER. CPED Executive Director signed on behalf of CPED as a member of WATTNet.
Other activities included presentations and discussions which focused on Trade and Regional Integration, Natural Resource Management, Private Sector and Infrastructure for Inclusive Development. And in the end the conference was able to develop an action plan that will address some critical issues pertaining to the sub-region, and obtained commitment from Heads of Governments on the action plan.
The IEA, Ghana played the role of Secretariat in organizing and hosting the two-day conference.