President Akufo-Addo[/caption] President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has reiterated Ghana’s full commitment to the ECOWAS project, reassuring the country would play its role in ensuring that the ideals of the economic Bloc were upheld to bring the needed development to the region. Giving that assurance on Saturday when he interacted with the Ghanaian community resident in Cape Verde, as part of his three day tour of that country, President Akufo-Addo expressed satisfaction so far with the outcome of his tour of the countries in the ECOWAS region, as the set objectives prior to the commencement of the tour were being met. “The purpose of the tour of the ECOWAS countries, as outlined by the presidency, was to afford President Akufo-Addo the opportunity to introduce himself, as the new Ghanaian leader, formally to the governments and peoples of neighbouring countries, explore and deepen our bilateral relations with them, and reiterate Ghana’s full commitment to the ECOWAS project.” According to the President, “Everywhere I have been so far, I have been met with a lot of enthusiasm and warmth, because people are reassured about Ghana’s role in ECOWAS, and, to me, that is very important. If we can make a success out of ECOWAS, it will help us a lot in the economic development of our country.” With Ghana having the second largest economy in West Africa, and being the second biggest country in terms of population and ECOWAS, President Akufo-Addo stated that “what these tours are trying to do is to reassure the ECOWAS world that we are still very much engaged.” Touching on the issues back in Ghana, President Akufo-Addo told the gathering that the Asempa Budget outlined the economic vision of his government, as well as pointed to the direction in which his government wanted the country to head. “We believe that if we can empower and stimulate the private sector in Ghana, those who do their own businesses and take risk, if we can strengthen them, it will be the quickest way we can develop our economy and thereby create jobs and bring prosperity to our country,” he said. President Akufo-Addo indicated that “a lot of taxes that had been irritating many private sector operatives were removed. GH¢1 billion in taxes was taken out of government’s revenue, in order to have this money remain at the level of private businesses for them to be able to re-invest it in the economy”. He reiterated the commitment of his government towards fulfilling the promises he made to Ghanaians in the run-up to the December 2016 elections. The Free Senior High School Policy, he said, is on its way to being fulfilled, indicating that his government will fund the cost of public Senior High Schools for all those who qualify for entry from the 2017/2018 academic year onwards. On the revival of the National Health Insurance Scheme, President Akufo-Addo noted that his government had found it necessary to find the money to save the scheme from collapse. “The scheme has been threatened by mismanagement and by huge indebtedness. We are now having to systematically liquidate the arrears so that the service providers can be encouraged to provide services for NHIS card holders. I am hoping that within 18 months, all the arrears of the NHIS would have been settled, so that we can have a secured future for the scheme,” he said. On the agricultural sector, the President told the gathering that the programme for “Planting for Food and Jobs” launched in Goaso a month ago is the answer to the twin-problem of the migration of youth to city centres in search of non-existent jobs, as well as an end to the disgraceful spectacle of Ghana importing food stuffs from neighbouring countries. The programme, he noted, has so far employed 1,200 extension officers, and an additional 2,000 more officers would be employed in 2018. Additionally, the programme, he stated would in its first year target 200,000 farmers. President Akufo-Addo thereafter visited the Centre for Renewable Energy and Industrial Maintenance (CERMI). CERMI was established to build capacities on the different technologies of renewable energy such as solar, photovoltaic and wind. By the year 2020, Cape Verde aims at achieving a 100 percent penetration rate of renewable energy in use in all parts of the country. The ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, whose Executive Director is Mr. Mahama Kappiah, a Ghanaian, is working closely with CERMI to this end. President Akufo-Addo was also taken on a tour of Cape Verde’s National Data Centre (NOSi), which was established in August 2015. The Centre aims at providing services in areas such as finance, distance higher education, research and development of software, and other solutions in the field of new technologies. According to Jorge Lopes, Coordinator of NOSi, who took President Akufo-Addo on the tour, “this infrastructure allows us to store and process the data safely. From this centre, Cape Verde can offer storage services and data processing, software development, “hosting” websites, etc., to institutions, national and international, amongst others.” President Akufo-Addo was also taken to Cidade Velha, the Portuguese word for “old city”. A former capital of Cape Verde, it is the oldest settlement in Cape Verde, and is currently the seat of the Ribeira Grande de Santiago Municipality. The “old city” was the first European colonial settlement in the tropics. Some of the planned original design of the site is still intact, including a royal fortress, two towering churches and a 16th century town square. Today, Cidade Velha is an Atlantic shipping stop and centre for Creole culture. The city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.