Regarded as a campaigner for West African integration, a reformer and supporter of good governance on the continent, Mohamed Ibn Chambas was awarded the German Africa Prize on Wednesday.
After serving abroad in the diplomatic corps, Chambas returned to Ghana in the 1980s and pushed for democracy to be established once the one-party system was done away with in 1992.
"I take it as an encouragement to continue to do the work that I have committed myself to," he told Deutsche Welle. "To improve the conditions in Africa and to make a contribution to improve governance, peace and security on the continent. To promote economic development, but especially to see what I can do to continue to work for the deepening of regional integration."
He would eventually become a member of parliament and move up the ranks to deputy minister for foreign policy and educational policy.
West African integration
Chambas was awarded the prize this year for his work while head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It's an organization that is growing in significance, he said.
"This is an organization which has an important role to play in the region," he said. "It's about good governance, peace and security. We are talking about a borderless West Africa and creating societies in which the democratic rights of the people are respected."
He said ECOWAS has become important in ensuring stability in the region and in setting minimum standards of governance - including respect for human rights and ensuring that governments are accountable.
But it's no easy task. The 15 nations that make up the group run the gamut in economic terms from resource-rich Nigeria with a population of 150 million to Ivory Coast, whose economy has been crippled by political crisis. Sierra Leone and Liberia as well as Benin and Togo are also members of the economic area.
Using the European Union as one of its models, ECOWAS maintains its own peacekeeping force, a parliament and its own West African Court. The organization also works to deepen the region's democratic culture and ensure elections meet certain minimum acceptable standards, Chambas said.
"Let's face it, the democracies are young. They are young, growing democracies. There are still many problems dealing with elections and good practices," he said. "The region has agreed to certain norms, but it not everywhere that these norms are well respected."
Author: Ute Schaeffer (sms)
Editor: Nancy Isenson