The West African Think Tank Network (WATTNet) has been officially launched at the inaugural conference under the theme “Transforming West Africa for Inclusive Development”. WATTNet is a network of West African think tanks established in September 2015 with the goal of promoting socio-economic and political development in the sub-region.
The inaugural conference was attended by the former President of Ghana John Agyekum Kufuor. Delivering the keynote address,
Former President Kufuor called on African leaders to promote the integration of Africa by putting in place the right structures. He challenged the audience present and all Africans to show the spirit of Africanism so they can cherish their roots. Mr. Kufuor said it has been amply demonstrated through history that we can do it, but only with education. He added, “Let the people get to know through informal and formal education in our schools that truly we share common ancestry. We want to know the world generally, but we must first know our immediate world, which is West Africa.” The Ex-President noted that Africa has over the years been excessively dependent on imports and so cannot utilize the resources of the land to revamp the continent.
Mr Kufuor said he was worried about the failure to exploit natural resources embedded in the African soil. “We also, on the economic front, should make our people from government, right down to the people generally aware of what is happening. The world in terms of the market is fast globalizing and the one attribute of the global market that we must come to terms with is the fact that our competitiveness is the demand. So if we want to hold our corner in the global market, we should operate with global standards. Otherwise, we become dumping grounds. For instance, in Ghana here, we have lands, we have water courses that could support viable rice production, but what do we find? We are dumping sites for imported rice from as far away as Vietnam, China, Japan, India. And farmers are not able to compete with the produce from those far-off places.”
The former President advised African leaders to resource local producers to compete on the international market.
The WATTNet official launch was on the 1st and 2nd of March at the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, Accra.
The West African Think Tank Network (WATTNet) is aimed at generating quality evidence and knowledge on economic, social and political issues that will feed into national and regional policy formulation. It comprises a network of ten think tanks from five West African countries. They are: African Heritage Institution (Nigeria); Center for Studies, Documentation, Economic and Social Research (CEDRES, Burkina Faso); Ivorian Center for Economic and Social Research (CIRES, Cote D’Ivoire); Center for Population and Environmental Development (CPED, Nigeria); Consortium for Economic and Social Research (CRES, Senegal); Center for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA, Nigeria); Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG, Ghana); Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA, Ghana); Prospective Agricultural and Rural Initiative (IPAR); and Institute for Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER, Ghana). The Network is supported by the Think Tank Initiative (TTI) and the International Development Research Center (IDRC, Canada).