You could be forgiven for thinking that the front page of Wednesday's Business and Financial Times newspaper is an indication that all is not necessarily well on the ECOWAS front. If you couple it with the news that ECOWAS common currency can only be achieved by 2020(!) That Niger is behaving in a way that might merit its suspension can only further buttress the fact that regional integration in West Africa has failed.
The West African sub-region remains one of the more vibrant regions on the African continent. You do a google search, and consistently, ECOWAS, SADC, and East African
Community (EAC) are cited as three of the more successful regional blocs out of the eight RECs that exist.
Just in case you might not know, German academics have written this of ECOWAS:
Being the prime engine of regional integration on the African continent, ECOWAS is currently undergoing impressive transformations aimed at defining new priorities and objectives. The ECOWAS priorities and objectives may also serve as a source of inspiration for other regional groupings anywhere else in the world.
The news also that the Ghana Investment
Promotion Council is doing serious outreach work to get Ghanaians to form
cooperatives and link-up with businesses in Burkina Faso and Niger suggests that this forward-looking vision can only facilitate ECOWAS integration. You can read the news of this here: http://www.ghananewsagency.org/s_economics/r_5968/.
What of the ECOWAS Parliament?
I daresay few people might be cognisant of the ECOWAS Parliament. I took the liberty of copying some of the "achievements" from the publication to the left:
In addition to providing parliamentary opinion on matters referred to it by ECOWAS Institutions, the Parliament has recorded the following achievements:
• Brokered peace process in the Mano River Region of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
• Sped up the process of adoption and implementation of ECOWAS decisions, protocols
• Widened the scope of participation of the ECOWAS peoples through its collaboration
with the civil society and the bringing on board of many Non-Governmental Organizations and Community-Based Organizations, a very focal point and nexus of democratic integration process.
• Advanced the cause of democracy and good governance through its support, mediation,
and diplomatic shuttles and peace missions to conflict zones in the region.
• Made texts, drafts and resolutions and amendment of protocols, and treaties in
compliance with a people-oriented integration of the region.
• Partnered, collaborated and shared experiences with the African Union Commission,
NEPAD Secretariat, the UN Agencies,the European Union, the African-Carribbean Pacific (ACP) Secretariat, etc to draw support for the region’s integration and development process.
• Critical engagement in election monitoring in many countries of the region like Nigeria, Benin Republic, Sierra-Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Togo, the Gambia, Ghana etc.
• Made key inputs in the administration of ECOWAS institutions through the timely
sharing of experiences and feed backs to the parliament by the heads of such institutions or their delegates at the House Sittings.
• Institutional re-engineering of the organs and institutions of ECOWAS through the
setting of some criteria or standard of conformity and capacity building.
• Convened parliamentary sittings in different countries of the region to bring the integration process closer to the people and build confidence; rather than holding all the sittings in Abuja, Nigeria; which is the seat of the parliament.
• Surveillance on the economic and political developments within the region and intervention at appropriate times where need be.
• Early warning and proactive measures to forestall full blown crises through its shuttle diplomacy and country-specific collaboration.
• A program of Action at advanced stage to kick-start the process of membership election through universal suffrage to give the parliament legitimacy.
• Promotion of youthful activities and participation across the region.
• Budget Appropriation for ECOWAS Institutions.
• Facilitation of payment of development levy by Member States.
• Image making for ECOWAS and the integration process and deepening of relations
among Member States and with development partners.
• Contributed to the processes of Trade Liberalization, Macro-economic convergence,
creation of customs union and free movement of persons, goods; and investment across
• Raised awareness through the Mass Media and mobilized Media establishments within and outside the Community to support ECOWAS institutions and agencies.
• Engaged the private sector, which is the driver of economic growth, to invest in the region.
I'm not quite sure what else to add, except whenever you read this, I hope you've learnt something more than you knew about the 34-yr-old institution, which WE all --community citizens of ECOWAS--have a stake in building up.
Happy ECOWAS day!