ECOWAS: THE IDEALS AND PRACTICE OF REGIONAL ECONOMIC INTEGRATION
1.1 Background for the Study
Regional integration has been a hot topic in scholarly studies, political discourse, and international media for the last two decades. The extent to which regional integration has emerged is inextricably related to the advent of globalisation and the need for countries to reach agreements to ease all types of exchanges and transactions.
Regional integration has been an evolving process for many decades, and some regions have welcomed it. Its evolution was primarily in the form of merging actors concerned with economic and security issues, with the addition of other concerns such as social, cultural, environmental, and developmental demands.
However, the dedication and attainment of stated goals by member states in the various regional integrating bodies has dictated how far they have progressed in the process, distinguishing very successful regional integration organisations from others.
It is worth noting that the promises of regional integration since the publication of Viner (1950) and Balassa (1967) have had positive feedback for some groups of countries (Northern America free Trade Agreement – NAFTA; MERCOSUR;
Association of Southeast Asian Nations – ASEAN) and negative feedback for others, primarily African economies (Common market for Eastern and Southern Africa – COMESA; Economic Community of West African States –
ECOWAS; Economic Community of Central Africa However, regional integration is critical for Africa's competitiveness and economic diversification, particularly for vulnerable economies like ECOWAS.
The establishment of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Lagos, Nigeria on May 28, 1975, was hailed as a watershed moment in efforts to establish a framework for economic cooperation and integration that would encompass the whole sub-region. After forty-three (43) years, two treaties,
and various revisions to the organisation's institutional framework, questions remain about the institution's relevance to the teeming population of the West African Sub-region. Most analysts have questioned ECOWAS's success as an economic organisation due to the slow rate of integration, which is the organization's principal purpose (Kufour, 2006).
During the organization's initial era, numerous issues arose. Some of these issues include an inadequate legal framework, failure to accomplish community objectives such as the Trade Liberalisation Scheme (TLS), non-ratification of community protocols, and a general suspicion of the motives of the regional hegemony, Nigeria.
Under the first administration, ECOWAS was essentially an agora, or discussion platform, “where things cannot just get done.” The advent of violent confrontations in the early 1990s altered the course of the community's goals, culminating in the modification of its treaty and the addition of a human rights overlay.
The intervention of ECOWAS in troubled Member States, particularly Liberia and Sierra Leone, sparked legal and political debates not only about the organization's role in peace and security, but also about the importance of protecting universal values such as human rights, democracy, and the rule of law (Klabbers, 2005).
Indeed, regional integration is considered as helpful in a variety of ways, including significant economic benefits and serving as a stabilising influence in inter-state relations. Scholars from all disciplines,
however, emphasise that regionalism is evolving as a phenomena in its own right and should not be inserted without extreme caution into varied geographical and socioeconomic situations. In this light, regional economic integration may have worrisome consequences.
Where it does not play out in accordance with liberal assumptions of perfect markets and perfect competition, it may even be suboptimal in systemic and political terms,
in part because severe situational and structural constraints may pose threats to the functionality of given configurations, with alarming implications for overall stability, efficiency, coherence, and trade costs.
Economic integration remains an important goal for both the Community and the continent as a whole. Economic integration has numerous advantages that are well acknowledged. The urgency with which it should be pursued is expressed as follows by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA):
This shift (the global move to integrate economies) is nowhere more urgent than in Africa, where the combined impact of relatively small economies, international trade terms, and the legacy of colonialism, misrule, and conflict has meant that we have yet to claim our global market share, despite our significant market size (UNCTAD, 2009: ix).
However, the organization's preoccupation with human rights protection, peace, and security, as well as its modest progress in economic integration, has attracted researchers' attention to the original goals on which ECOWAS was founded.
The emergence of norms in the organization's conduct since its intervention in unstable Member States has also generated important questions about the boundaries of an organisation that was originally dedicated to economic integration but has subsequently expanded its mandate to peace and security and human rights.
The ideals and actions of ECOWAS as an international body in the West African region are the focus of this study. It is maintained that the ability of community institutions to execute on the wide mandate of human rights protection, peace and security,
and the rule of law in accordance with a paradigm change in regional integration on the continent is critical to the organization's long-term viability.
1.2 Statement of Problem
ECOWAS, like most international bodies, faces the issue of building legitimacy, particularly when it comes to carrying out its mandate of regional integration.
The legitimacy of ECOWAS was initially barely disputed, possibly due to the Cold War and the constraints it imposed on the organization's mission. Both its members and other states saw it as primarily concerned with economic integration, and it was founded to that end.
However, the advent of violent domestic disputes in member states has had long-term consequences for ECOWAS's role, broadening the organization's understanding of peace, security, and human rights. More importantly, the legitimacy question was raised principally as a result of military deployments in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
According to the ideals on which ECOWAS was founded, the organisation was intended to ensure that the region's member countries profit significantly from trade and economic opportunities. It has been observed that uniting African economies will allow for the exploitation of economies of scale, ensure competitive markets,
provide access to larger trading and investment environments, promote exports to regional markets, provide the necessary experience to compete in the multilateral trade system, and provide a framework for them to collaborate in developing common financial, transportation, and communication services.
The governance of the global economy has altered dramatically over the past century. Academic interest in economic integration has grown almost rapidly as a result of its more complicated dynamics. These advancements have not only improved growth rates in many parts of the world, but they have also created significant obstacles.
As economic and financial markets develop and the consequences of globalisation become more apparent, fundamental economic flaws undermine players' competitiveness in the global system, independent of their economic and political standing.
In Africa, the issues caused by this evolution are considerably more severe. African economic realities include political instability, poverty, and civil unrest, which are exacerbated by a lack of infrastructure, underdeveloped human resources, and a weak private sector.
Though regional economic integration was initially introduced to facilitate West African integration into the global economy, the stagnation of intraregional trade sparked renewed interest in the (in-)efficiency of ECOWAS as an economic integration scheme, which had been treated with benign neglect for the better part of the previous four decades.
In the Sub-Saharan region, integration has yielded disappointing results. Africa's internal trade has remained limited, with more than 80% of exports headed for foreign markets, owing to external ‘post-colonial' links.
Not only may regionalism thus emerge from flawed theoretical premises, but the absence of political will and internal legitimacy as endogenous factors of failure is especially painful.
Challenges stem from persistent structural and institutional flaws, including redundancy and a lack of political underpinnings, as well as the incompatibility of the split between regional economic integration and important national priorities.
The goal of this research is to determine if the current state of regional economic integration as implemented by ECOWAS is effective in its predominant structural form, with a particular emphasis on commerce, regional industrial growth, food security, and road and railway infrastructure.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
To investigate how the implementation of ECOWAS treaties and policies affects the free movement of products and trade, regional industrial growth, food security, and road and railway infrastructure among member states in the area.
i. Determine the impact of Free Trade Areas and Common External Tariffs on the free movement of goods and services across the ECOWAS area.
ii. To investigate the role of the West African Common Industrial Policy (WACIP) in regional industrial development in the region.
iii. To investigate the effect of the ECOWAS Regional Agricultural Investment Programme (RAIP) on food security in the area.
iii. Determine the impact of the ECOWAS Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) on the development of regional road and railway infrastructure.
v. To advise steps that ECOWAS should take to carry out its mandate of regional economic integration for member states.
1.4 Research Questions.
The following research questions drove the design of the study's objectives:
i. How do free trade areas and common external tariffs affect the free movement of goods and services within the ECOWAS region?
ii. How has the West African Common Industrial Policy (WACIP) helped to drive regional industrial development?
iii. How has the ECOWAS Regional Agricultural Investment Programme (RAIP) impacted the region's food security?
iv. How has the ECOWAS Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) helped to develop the region's road and railway infrastructure?
v. What steps should be taken by ECOWAS to fulfil its mandate of regional economic integration for member states?
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study will assist ECOWAS member states in identifying future alternatives for advantages associated with the proper implementation of the regional body's treaties and policies.
The findings of this study will be extremely important to scholars and graduate students interested in the function of regional economic integration in multi-cultural civilizations such as the ECOWAS sub-region and Africa in general.
The study will be useful as a reference for students of international relations and public administrators, particularly in the field of regional economic integration. It will also inspire more research into regional and economic integration initiatives, such as ECOWAS.
1.6 Scope of Study
This study focuses on ECOWAS's involvement in regional economic integration among its member states. The researcher specifically focused on four domains: trade, regional industrial development, food security, and road and railway infrastructures.
1.7 Definition of Terms
Free Trade Areas (FTAs) are a process that reduces or eliminates tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods and services among a set of countries in a certain geographic area.
Economic integration is defined as a commercial policy that reduces or eliminates protectionism solely among participating countries.
Regionalisation refers to the increase in societal integration within a region, as well as the frequently undirected processes of social and economic interaction.