Text of speech delivered by the President, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, CON., SAN on the official commencement of French Language training by the BEST Centre in conjunction with FEWACCI.
It gives me great pleasure be part of the commencement of French Language training programme holding here today.
Today is particularly a special day to me because of the underlying philosophy behind this training which is aimed at skilling our members, staff and indeed the entire business community within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and even beyond.
You are no doubt not unaware of the fact that, aside from the issue of single currency for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), language barrier has stubbornly remained one of the frustrating factors that have, over the years, hindered smooth trading among partners in the sub-region.
For emphasis, out of the 17 countries in West Africa namely: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte D’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo, only 5 are Anglophone. And they are: The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Ghana. Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe are Portuguese or Lusophone countries.
Nigeria’s immediate neighbours are Benin, Togo, Niger and Cameroun whose official languages are French. That informed while in the past, efforts were made by the government to introduce French Language teaching in secondary schools but it was a policy that was either not faithfully implemented or abandoned mid-way.
Therefore, when the idea of skilling in the second language was muted, I embraced it in its totality bearing in mind that Nigeria’s location in West Africa is critical with no fewer than 10 other French first language speaking countries. But in order to harvest the abundant potentials in the gap, the Business, Entrepreneurial Skills and Technology (BEST) centre of our Chamber has decided to curtail the trend. In conjunction with the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI) Institute, we are today pioneering the first efforts by the Organised Private Sector (OPS) in bridging the communication gap suffered by trading partners in ECOWAS.
With this, doing business among ourselves has been hindered to a large extent by language barriers. And that should not be.
ECOWAS itself has admitted that, ‘for easy communication among members there is the need for individuals in the region to be able to speak these languages but this is proving to be difficult. This has necessitated the use of interpreters to make people understand each other at summits of the Community’.
As instructive as that ad hoc plan has helped, it is not a permanent solution. And that is why I deeply appreciate the two bodies for embarking on this mission that has a vision. Let me state quickly that language has not only affected the economies of the sub-region but has also moved a step further to undermine the purpose of Regional integration and cooperation of the West African sub-region. And that is why conscious efforts such as this must be applauded hence they are made to bridge the gap of language barrier amongst member states in ECOWAS.
In this regard, the Chamber has therefore deemed it necessary to deepen economic participation of ECOWAS countries, internal trading and sustain the ideal of the founding fathers.
As for the trainees, I assure you of adequate instruction by the facilitators and enjoin you all to take full advantage of this programme hence it will impact positively on your contact with your business partners in the Francophone countries. I thank you all and wish you successful studies.
Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, CON., SAN
President 25th March, 2019