REGIONAL INTEGRATION IN WEST AFRICA :
A DISCUSSION PAPER
Regional integration in West Africa is failing because it is based on the wrong paradigm:
It is market driven, institutionally centered, legitimated by the collective decision making bodies of the Authority of Heads of States and Council of Ministers and is implicity assuming the slow disappearence of the Nation- States.
I believe you cannot wish away the West African nation state and that on the contrary it should be the point of departure and the focus for the struggle for integration, not thru markets, but thru production and for the necessary re-appropriation of our national and regional development agendas.
- Now having said that, let me start with a few statements, which I hope will not be controversial, for 3 reasons:
-Opening a note with controversial statements will antagonize part of your audience and spoil the whole exercise.
-Because I believe these statements are generally admitted as common truths
-Because the current paradigm presiding over Regional Integration is based on these “truths”
- Here they are:
– By and large analysts tend to agree that the process of regional integration, since the establishment of ECOWAS in 1975, has been dramatically slow. Some even advance the term of failure and invoke in turn the lack of solidarity, the lack of leadership, conflicts, wars and armed opposition groups using terror tactics, proliferation of competing institutions, nation-statism and lack of people participation…
– The territorial units in which people were locked in and granted independence were not conducive to development. Hence the need to bring them together into single economic units, to usher in economies of scale, large markets, competitive economies especially in an era of economic globalisation. The approach is integration thru markets, which is the dominant paradigm. In short, regional integration is needed in order to achieve development.
– Blocked development in individual nation states controlled by ruling elites bent on ruthless primitive accumulation of capital leads to gross inequalities, social unrests and conflicts, which in turn block development. In short no development without peace.
– Regional integration is what the ECOWAS Commission does. They draft policies and treaties bring in government experts, submit them to Ministers, and have them endorsed by conferences of Heads of States. These are afterwards supposed to be ratified, integrated in national laws and implemented. This scheme is today supplemented by Acts, Regulations, Directives and Decisions emanating from Heads of States, Ministers and are supposed to be binding and enforceable in Member States. What is usually called institutional integration thru summit diplomacy and building of institutions. The model of course here is the European Union.
– These efforts have failed because of the lack of political will and because the people have not appropriated the vision and project of the architects of integration. In short, the obstacle to regional integration is the West Africa nation state and the apathy of the general population. Hence the call by ECOWAS for an “ECOWAS of people”. In the other words, we, the people of West Africa paraphrasing the “we the people of the UN enshrined in the Charter.