Prospects And Challenges Of Regional Integration In West Africa

Project and Seminar Material for International Relations

Prospects And Challenges Of Regional Integration In West Africa


There are a number of peculiar features in West Africa which have definitely influenced trends in integration. Not only does the area have some of the densest populations in Africa, it also contains the largest number of individual nations, fifteen and embraces three different agro-ecological zones against the one or two zones of other African regions. West Africa possesses the largest variation of mineral ores and the relief is generally flat, thus making it conducive to the development of railways and roads. Only three out of the countries in the sub-region are landlocked.

Regional integration has, thus, been defined as a process of peacefully creating a larger coherent political system out of previously separate units, each of which voluntarily cedes some part of its sovereignty to a central authority and renounces the use of force for resolving conflict between members.

This study focused on how regional integration was created in West Africa, and the challenges they face as well as their way forward.

This research made use of secondary data like textbooks, journal articles, and internet resources.

The study concludes that African free trade zone or tripartite FTA among ECOWAS, EAC, and SADC should be implemented that should help solve the overlapping membership dilemma by bringing free trade among the members.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

It is widely acknowledged that Africa’s integration efforts have thus far failed to bear satisfactory fruit. While other regions have successfully used their integration mechanisms to improve their economic welfare, Africa lags behind with respect to GDP growth, per capita income, capital inflows, and general living standards. This is a problem across most of the continent, in spite of the existence of a plethora of policy plans and grand visions. The first major blueprint for Africa’s development – the Lagos Plan of Action and the Final Act of Lagos – was adopted almost three decades ago, and set out a vision of an integrated African market by the year 2000. It was given further impetus by the Abuja Treaty which was approved in 1991 and came into force in 1994. According to this Treaty, the African Economic Community (AEC) would be in place by 2028. Some of its milestones would include strengthening of existing regional economic communities and the formation of the new ones (between 1994 and 1999); stabilization of existing tariffs, and integration and harmonization of economic sectors (1999 to 2007); establishment of a free trade area and customs union (2007 to 2017); harmonization of tariff systems across various regional economic communities (RECs) (2017 to 2019); the creation of a common African market and harmonization of monetary, financial, and fiscal policies; and the establishment of a pan-African economic and monetary union (2023 to 2028).

This plan envisaged that, through RECs, deep-seated challenges of poverty and underdevelopment would be eradicated. Among the latest initiatives has been the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), as well as the vision for the ‘United States of Africa’. The establishment of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) in March 2004 can be regarded as an important achievement towards this strategic objective. While the previous plans placed a premium on intra-regional trade, agriculture, technology and the environment, it would seem as if the new initiatives are emphasizing ownership, economic reform and political modernization. It is unclear if and when the fruits of the latest initiatives will begin to manifest. The question is: In view of the fact that the plans that were articulated by the first generation of postcolonial leaders failed to materialize, what gives force to the new-found optimism that characterizes today’s proponents of Africa’s integration? Could there have been something fundamentally wrong with the initial casting of this vision that today’s elite can successfully rectify, so that Africa can be set on a promising developmental trajectory? The contention in this paper is that too little has changed since the 1980s to advance regional integration and to ensure developmental progress on the continent. It would seem that Africa’s elites are focusing on the wrong set of priorities with too little genuine commitment towards the goal of Africa’s development. For regional integration in Africa to be a success, Africa’s leaders will have to move beyond grand gestures and abstract visions. Africa’s challenges call for pragmatism and a sense of urgency in action. More focused and gradual steps that are carefully executed at the domestic level may be the best place to start. The focus of such steps at the domestic level should be on bold and sustainable political and economic reforms. At the regional level the focus should be on developmental coordination and gradual harmonization of policies and regulations, which could form the foundation for greater integration. As Percy Ministry contends: ‘African governments need to be less ambitious and more realistic and pragmatic aboutthe objectives and intermediate targets for integration, taking into account the constraints and capacities of integrating national governments.

The formation of regional blocs and groupings has progressively become a prominent feature of world politics since the end of the World War II (Olubomehin and Kawonishe, 2004). Regional integration generally involves a complex web of cooperation between countries within a given geographical area, to harmonize policies in such sectors as trade, investment, infrastructural, as well as monetary and fiscal policies of member states. There has been much support for the economic integration of African states since independence. This received a great deal of impetus following severe economic instability of the 1970s (Asante, 1999). According to Hartzenberg (2011), the ambition of African leaders to integrate Africa provided the rationale for the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA). Both the LPA (1980) and the Abuja Treaty of 1991 became the agenda for an integration based on solidarity and self-reliance. The treaties also called for the creation of regional integration arrangements as starting points for the continent’s integration.

According to Asante (2000), ECOWAS is the most concrete African initiative in this direction. ECOWAS is a regional group of 15 West African countries established on 28th May, 1975 under the Treaty of Lagos. It represents a regional institutional framework for the coordination and promotion of economic cooperation in West Africa. Since its inception, ECOWAS has done remarkably well, especially in the areas of peace and security, trade and the free movement of people and goods in the region. However, the community is faced with a number of challenges which are likely to impede the effective exercise of its functions and the fulfillment of its purpose. Considering the growing importance of regional integration in the world, it is important therefore, to identify the challenges and prospects for regional integration in West Africa

1.2 Statement Of The Problem

Over the last thirty years, Regional Integration Agreements (also referred to as Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) or Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) to underline that these agreements almost always involve preferential access) have been spreading everywhere including across Africa where they have also been called Regional Economic Communities (RECs). During the period, the landscape of PTAs has changed drastically. Theearly phase of integration started during the first decades of independence, and was enshrined in the Lagos Plan of Action, an initiative of the Organization for African Unity now known as African union AU, adopted by the heads of states in 1980. It is in view of this that the researcher intend to investigate the challenges of regional integration in West Africa.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The main objective of this study is to the prospect and challenges of regional integration in West Africa. To aid the completion of the study, the researcher intends to achieve the following sub-objective;

  1. To ascertain the effect of regional integration in the unity of Africa
  2. To ascertain the challenges and impediment to regional integration in west Africa
  3. To ascertain the prospect and benefit of regional integration in the development of West Africa.
  4. To proffer possible solution to the identified problem

1.4 Research Question

To aid the completion of the study, the following research question were formulated by the researcher;

  1. What are the effect of regional integration on the development of West African state?
  2. What are the challenges to regional integration in West Africa?
  3. What are the prospect and benefit of regional integration among West African state?

1.5 Significance of the Study

It is believed that at the completion of the study, the findings will be of great importance to the ambassadors and diplomat of West African state. As the study seek to enumerate the benefit of regional integration among west African state. The study will also be of importance to the department of international relation as the study seek to add to the existing literature on regional integration.The study will also be of great benefit to the researchers who intends to embark on research on similar topics as it will serve as a guide. Finally, the study will be of great importance to academia’s, lecturers, teachers, students and the general public.

1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study

The scope of the study covers the prospect and challenges of regional integration in west African state. However during the cause of the study there were some factors which limited the scope of the study;

a) Availability of Research Material:

The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study

b) Time:

The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.

c) Organizational Privacy:

Limited Access to the selected auditing firm makes it difficult to get all the necessary and required information concerning the activities.

1.7 Definition of Terms

Regional Integration

An arrangement for enhancing cooperation through regional rules and institutions entered into by states of the same region. Regional integration could have as its objective political or economic goals or in some cases, a business initiative aimed at broader security and commercial purposes.

West Africa

West Africa, also called Western Africa and the West of Africa, is the westernmost subregion of Africa. West Africa has been defined as including 18 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, the island nation of Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, the island of Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe and Togo

African Economic Community

The African Economic Community (AEC) is an organization of African Union states establishing grounds for mutual economic development among the majority ofAfrican states.

1.8 Organization of the Study

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows :

Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research questions, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study.

Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature. In chapter three, the study dealt with the benefits of regional integration; the challenges of integration in west Africa and the prospect for regional integration in west Africa.

In Chapter Four, the study examined the Efficiency And Distributional Effects Of Regional Trade Agreement; African Regional Integration And It Effects On Trade; and also the Reduction In Trade Barriers Trade Creation And Trade Diversion Effects.

Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study.

Chapter Five

Summary Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain the prospect and challenges of regional integration in West Africa state.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, we examined the Efficiency And Distributional Effects Of Regional Trade Agreement; African Regional Integration And It Effects On Trade; and also the Reduction In Trade Barriers, Trade Creation And Trade Diversion Effects.

5.2 Conclusion

Regional integration is an essential instrument for faster collective growth and prosperity. And it still remains a central pillar in Africa’s development strategy. To many, it is now a necessity rather than a choice. But ECOWAS cannot achieve any meaningful regional integration if the organization’s responsibilities, capacities and competence are not renegotiated. Political will and commitment on the part of member states is the most important requirement for successful integration. ECOWAS institutions must be assigned the powers to enact requisite laws, monitor and enforce them on regional priorities. Whether integration will be successful or not, in West Africa and other parts of the continent, will be decided by the countries of the sub-region themselves (Asante, 1999). Thus, regional integration in West Africa will lack power unless there is a widespread conviction among the people of the region for integration.

5.3 Recommendation

Haven completed the study, the researcher recommend that; African free trade zone or tripartite FTA among ECOWAS, EAC, and SADC should be implemented that should help solve the overlapping membership dilemma by bringing free trade among the members by:

  1. Removing tariffs and NTBs and implementing trade facilitation which will include a harmonization
  2. Applying the subsidiarity principle to infrastructure to improve the transport network;
  3. Foster industrial development. Signed in 2008, it is ambitious but not yet operational.

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