Ghana and West African Integration

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Apr 16 13:48:28 UTC 2005

Ghana And West African Integration

Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra)
April 15, 2005

By J.K.A.O. Bimpong

The first President of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah played a leading
role in African unity and progress. General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong was
also instrumental in the formation of the Economic Community of West
African States (ECOWAS). These, among others, have made Ghana an
influential country in the comity of nations in Africa. With the increase
in globalisation and regional groupings, it has become necessary for West
Africans to get our acts together and better our lot. The United States of
America with a population of almost three hundred million people, uses the
US dollar. European countries (some are yet to join) use the euro. No one
can underestimate the importance of these currencies to the economies of
these trade blocs. There are currently over 270 million people living in
the West African sub region.

With planning and commitment from policy makers and the people, the West
African sub region can become an important market for the people. The
English-speaking countries in the sub region are preparing to use a common
currency, the Eco. Already, French speaking countries in the sub region
use the CFA franc. It is possible that eventually, all the countries in
West Africa might use a common currency, either of the currencies or a
different currency altogether. This is likely to better the living
standards of the people.


Language is a major tool that brings people together. The ECOWAS
secretariat, the West African Monetary Union (WAMU), the West African
Central Bank (WACB) etc are manned or will be manned by people from the
various countries who have to be conversant with the official languages.
In addition, there are other professions where individuals require the
French language to effectively function. Engineers at the Volta River
Authority (VRA), CAF/FIFA referees, ministers of religion, bankers, custom
officials, immigration officers and a host of other professionals in Ghana
require working knowledge of the French language for effective discharge
of their duties.  French and English are the two official languages in the
sub region. Proficiency in the French language is a factor that enabled Mr
Kofi Annan to become the United Nations Secretary General. Whereas
citizens of French-speaking countries are relatively good at speaking the
English language, citizens of English speaking countries, especially
Ghanaians, have not shown enough commitment in the study of the French
language. President Jacques Chirac of France is proficient in the English
language. As a leading political figure in West Africa, President J.A.
Kufuor has received guests from the sub region.  Some visiting political
leaders from the French-speaking countries have spoken fluent English.
Messrs Allasane Ouattara of Cote d'Ivoire and Faure Gnassingbe of Togo are
good examples. The third President of Ghana, Dr Hilla Limann was a French
scholar. He needed no interpreter in his dealings with leaders in the
French-speaking communities. In Burkina Faso, just like other
French-speaking countries, some university courses require the study of
English language. Moreover, English is studied for a longer period at the
basic and second cycle schools in these francophone countries. In
addition, there are other resources that enable people to study and
improve upon their English language. These are the American cultural
centres (USIS), the Canadian embassies and the British councils.


Ghana is surrounded by Francophone countries; Burkina Faso to the north,
Togo to the east and Cote d'Ivoire to the west. However, until recently,
there was only the Mount Mary Training College at Somanya which trained
French language teachers for basic schools. This brought about dearth of
French language teachers in several schools. There are schools even in the
regional and district capitals which have not offered French language for
a long time in the junior secondary schools. Pupils who study the French
language at the primary level are usually in the private schools. A major
resource centre for learning or improving on one's French language in
Ghana is Le Centre Regional pour l'Enseignement du Francais (CREF). This
is a co-operation between the French embassy in Ghana and the Ghana
Education Service (GES). There are ten regional CREF centres in the
country. These are sited in second cycle institutions. In addition, there
is a national headquarters of CREF in Accra which co-ordinates activities
of the regional CREF centres. In these centres, there are satellite dishes
where students, French teachers and the general public can watch TV news
and programmes from France and other francophone countries. There are also
books, magazines, pamphlets and other materials in French which enable
people to be well versed in the French language and culture. In these CREF
centres, people have the opportunity to communicate in French and to learn
from others.

Since the CREF centres possess facilities other French centres in Ghana do
not have, they are better suited for the improvement of one's French.
However, the centres are closed during weekends. Moreover, these CREF
centres close at 5 pm on week days. There are occasional national service
assistants who help the regional heads (sole officers at the centres).
Sometimes, the heads go out together with these national service
assistants for supervision in schools. In such situations, CREF regional
offices are closed down! Moreover, it is not all the offices where there
are telephone or facsimile facilities.

Owing to this fact, communication between CREF centres and users of the
centres usually becomes a problem. A teacher or a student or a member of
the public may come all the way from a distant district and the office may
be shut. Also, apart from the national headquarters, no CREF regional
office has got means of transportation (few officers have private cars
though). Supervising schools in the various districts in the regions
usually become difficult. Heads of CREF usually have to take commercial
vehicles. Sometimes, coming back to CREF centres becomes a problem if the
visit is made at a peak period. If coming back to the centre becomes a
problem due to lack of transportation, a CREF centre may be shut for a
whole day and this obviously affects the study of French in Ghana. This
problem can be solved if there are additional officers who will always
stay behind at the CREF centres. Among others, such extra officers may be
tasked to come to work during weekends, especially on Saturdays. This will
enable people to benefit more from the facilities in the centres. Since
there is one CREF centre for each region, it would be prudent if they are
adequately resourced. Among others, there should be janitors who will
ensure that the centres are always tidy. It is not appropriate for heads
of CREF centres (who are Assistant Directors in the GES) to do everything,
including cleaning the centres. If that happens, when do these regional
CREF heads concentrate to teach students and offer advice to French
teachers and the public who visit the centres? When do heads of CREF make
adequate preparations to go out to supervise the teaching of French in the


Heads of regional CREF are supposed to be offered accommodation on
campuses where CREF centres are sited. However, most of the ten officers
are yet to find such accommodation. In some cases, they live very far from
the centres and that accounts for the reason why centres cannot be opened
beyond five o'clock.  Without means of transportation and accommodation in
the campuses, they have to live early to be in their houses on time. The
Ministries of Education and Sports, Regional Cooperation and NEPAD, the
French, Swiss, Canadian and Belgian Embassies in Ghana, the Ghana
Education Service and all who are in a position to help promote the study
of French language in Ghana are implored to ensure the smooth operation of
the regional CREF centres. Provision of transport for the regional CREF
centres is very necessary. Moreover, communication facilities are needed
at the centres and measures have to be put in place to ensure the opening
of the centres in the evenings and on weekends. Ghana has to be
competitive in the sub-region and the wider world. Adequate knowledge in
the French language is one of the factors that will enable Ghanaians to be

                          Copyright  2005 Ghanaian Chronicle. All rights
                           reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media

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