Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Will the African Integration Revolution be Televised?

The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
Will the African Integration Revolution be Televised? (1)
By E.K.Bensah Jr

You would not know it if you saw it, but Africa’s at the cusp of historic change. If the month of November is anything to go by, you might think that Africa’s about to take off in 2012. Five major developments have conspired to remind us that the issue of regional integration and trade are very much at the forefront of the minds of policy-makers, civil society activists and citizens alike.

Africa Trade Forum
According to the website of the ATF, the “strategic objectiveof the inaugural Africa Trade Forum, ATF 2011is to promote and enhance multi-stakeholder policy dialogue and advocacy on trade issues in Africa, by mobilising all the different trade constituencies Africa and the world in general, to debate and exchange views on all the key issuesrelating to intra-African trade, and Africa’s trade with the rest of the world”. Additionally, the Executive Secretary of the UNECA was perhaps more instructive and insightful. In his opening speech, he touched upon the low performance of Africa’s trade performance at “international and regional levels”, going on to say that “the continent’s share of global trade remains low at about 3% and continues to be dominated by primary commodity exports.”

He also touches upon how intra-African trade is faring, saying that it is “just about 11% of total trade as compared to 72% in Europe and 52% in Asia.” He suggests that a solution is through “regional value chains, which have contributed to high intra-regional trade elsewhere, which in turn has helped firms in other parts of the world to be key players in global value chains.”

Another positive outcome finds expression in the forthcoming Economic Report on Africa2012, which shows “some regional economic communities have exceeded the average intra-African trade growth.” One example cited is that of intra-COMESA trade that is reported to have grown “by at least 35.4 percent between 2009 and 2010, rising from US$12.7 billion to $17.2 billion.”

Janneh further maintains that the Forum is “intended to deepen the dialogue on how these challenges can be best addressed including through sharing of best practices.” In this respect, the Heads of States and Governments from the Tripartite of COMESA-SADC-EAC have committed themselves to the establishment of an FTA by 2014 “that will be based not just on market integration, but that will seek shared benefits through industrialization and infrastructure development.” 

That the AU Assembly will in January 2012 focus its meeting on the discussion of boosting intra-African trade can only “contribute to the process of helping build consensus around some key areas.” In addition, the forthcoming Assessing Regional Integration in Africa V, (jointly published by the AUC and AfDB) “suggest that harmonization of RECs trade policies through a continental FTA would result to an additional US$34 billion in intra-African exports…” In short, he maintains, “if we do what is required, we can optimize intra-African trade.”

Seventh Ordinary Session of Conference of African Trade Ministers
 A second major development is that of the Conference of African Trade Ministers currently being held in Accra this week, and which ends on 3rdDecember. A quick perusal of the AU website reveals two major documents that make recommended reading – that of an “Action Plan for boosting Intra-African Trade” a ‘Draft Framework, Roadmap and Architecture for Fast-Tracking the Continental Free Trade Area(CFTA)”. In the interests of space, I will seek to summarise the major highlights of the action plan, which comprises no less than six(6) programme clusters—namely: Trade policy; Trade Facilitation; Productive Capacity; Trade-Related Infrastructure; Trade Finance; and Trade Information.

The primary objective of the TRADE POLICY cluster is to fast-track intra-African trade development. Some of the activities outlined include: mainstreaming of intra-African trade in national trade development strategies; boosting of intra-African trade in food products so that tariffs, non-tariff measures and quantitative restrictions on intra-African trade in food products are removed; promotion of “Buy in Africa” and “Made in Africa” goods, which ought to lead to increased trade in goods among member states.

The main objective of TRADE FACILITATION is to reduce the time it takes to move goods from one point to another by 50%. Activities include: reduction of road blocks; the harmonization and simplification of customs and transit procedures, documentation and regulations; and the establishment of an “Integrated Border Management”, which output is a harmonized and simplified set of customs procedures; standards; regulations and documentation.

The third cluster – the PRODUCTIVE CAPACITY cluster – is perhaps the most contentious – and not just because the Action Plan dedicates a longer explication of it! The Plan reports that “to a large extent…the inadequacy of productive capacity, especially in the dynamic sectors of global trade” has a lot to do with the low level of intra-African trade.  While Africa exports more than it imports of ores, “metals, precious stones and fuels”, the reverse is the case with manufactured goods, chemicals, machinery and transport.

In short, the necessity of the diversification of Africa’s economy and the enhancement of its productive capacity and competitiveness for meeting the challenges of sustainable economic growth and development has led the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU to adopt a number of initiatives.

These include the adoption of the Action Plan for Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa(AIDA), which is aimed at the enhancement of the continent’s industrial capacities and capabilities. In addition, there is the African Productive Capacity Initiative(APCI); the Action Plan for the Development of Science and Technology; and the Africa Technology and Innovation Initiative(ATII); the African Mining Vision; and the African AgriBusiness and Agro-industry Development Initiative(3ADI). The report maintains “the effective implementation of these initiatives is essential for the enhancement of the productive capacities of African countries and for the boosting of intra-African trade.”

Little wonder, then, that the main objective of this cluster is to create regional and continental value chains/complementarity, to increase local production/ trade in goods produced in Africa. Some of the programmes and activities scheduled include: the prioritization of the implementation of continentally-agreed programmes, such as AIDA; ATII; APCI; and 3ADI; the establishment of integrated and inter-connected trade information systems; and the establishment of Regional Centers of Excellence for technology development, adaptation and diffusion resulting in each regional economic community(REC) having its own regional centre.

The fourth cluster deals with TRADE-RELATED INFRASTRUCTURE, with its main objective being the development of innovative, legal, financial and other mechanisms for multi-country infrastructural development projects. Some of its programmes include: the prioritization of the implementation of the AU Programme for Infrastructural Development in Africa(PIDA); and  the enabling environment for private sector participation in the development of infrastructure.

Cluster number five—TRADE FINANCE—focuses on developing and strengthening African financial institutions and mechanisms to promote intra-African trade and investment. Programmes include: strengthening and enhancing the capacity of existing regional and continental financial institutions; improving payment systems so that cross-border payments are facilitated; and finally, enabling environment for financial service companies to supply export credit and guarantees.

The sixth and final cluster—TRADE INFORMATION—focuses on bridging the information gap so as to enhance opportunities for intra-African trade, with, among other things, the envisaging of the creation of inter-connected centers of trade information exchange; as well as the development of “innovative legal, financial and other mechanisms for multi-country infrastructure and industrial projects”.

All this notwithstanding, there is even better good news to help resolve the problem of Africa’s low level of trade – and that is with the establishment of CFTA, or a Continental Free Trade Area Architecture. This would include: a High-Level African Trade Committee; a Joint Conference of Trade/Finance Ministers; an African Trade Forum; African Business Council; Trade Observatory; and an African Court of Justice. AU policymakers envisage the CFTAA to be ready by 2017.

UNCTAD’s Least Developed Countries Report
The report was launched last week—sadly without much fanfare. First, Ghana is not a Least Developed Country, and secondly, LDCs rarely make the headlines these days. Nonetheless, the report came out with much interesting analysis, including an issue I touched on last week – that of the regional and sub-regional banks.

According to the report, regional monetary funds are “instrumental in avoiding uncontrolled exchange devaluations that may compromise the integration process.” The report maintains “it might be argued that a regional reserve pool would not work if an external shock affects the whole region.” Despite that, they continue to be “an important source of development finance for regional member countries.”

It was back in 2002 that the Monterrey Consensus of the International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) emphasized the crucial role regional and subregional banks can play “in serving the development needs of developing countries and countries with economies in transition.” Further, they can serve as “a vital source of knowledge and expertise on economic growth and development for their developing member countries.” Third, given the structure of regional ownership, regional development banks can facilitate a stronger voice to developing country borrowers, as “well as enhance regional ownership and control”. Fourth, they can be effective because they tend to govern more through informal peer pressure “rather than imposing conditionality.” Finally, “information asymmetries are smaller at the regional level, given the proximity as well as close economic and other ties.”

(to be continued…)
In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" ( ). Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on  / Mobile: +233.268.687.653.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How Ecowas Can Help reduce Ghana's Dependency on Foreign Aid

“The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:

Aid-Exit Plan Found: Enter ECOWAS...

By E.K.Bensah Jr

Last week, the Business and Financial Times paper covered an all-important story entitled “Wanted:Aid-Exit Plan”.  In my view, it brought into sharp relief the absolute necessity by African countries of pursuing by any means necessary a more sub-regional path through ECOWAS.

The premise of the article was rooted in three points: first, given Ghana's graduation in November 2010 from low-income to lower-middle income status, it is likely to lose out concessional finance from the World Bank, “which has been the country's most important creditor for the past three decades”; second, after Ghana's recalibration of its GDP per capita to USD1,363, the country was “travelling the road” of losing “not just IDA funding, but other bilateral and multilateral assistance.” Finally, for Ghana to “build up its credibility”, it must—as per the findings of Western economists and consultants--”show fiscal restraint, maintain macroeconomic stability and demonstrate that it is capable of putting funds to productive use.”
All these points notwithstanding, the picture is too gloomy, and optimism can easily be found through ECOWAS. 

New Realities,Old opportunities
The bottom line is that cheap loans may have dried up, but through the Lome-based ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), Ghana can easily obtain funding to finance both its private and public sector initiatives.  

Formerly known as the ECOWAS Fund, EBID is the principal financial institution of ECOWAS. With its holding company operating through its two subsidiaries—the public-sector-focused ECOWAS Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the private-sector-led ECOWAS Regional Investment Bank (ERIB has), EBID remains the financing bank of NEPAD projects in the region. In so many ways, it is the European Investment Bank counterpart in the ECOWAS sub-region, and has been around since the inception of ECOWAS in 1975.

Observers of the sub-region believe EBID has, in many respects, been a trailblazer in the sub-region in the way it has maintained a consistent brief of fostering greater integration in the sub-region among its member states – especially in the light of the conflicts that mired the sub-region in the early nineties. So focused has it been in facilitating sub-regional integration that in 2004, in conjunction with the African Development Bank, it set up a Conflict Prevention Fund, which is indeed managed by EBID. 

Unbeknownst to many, EBID is the largest shareholder of the Ecobank group, which also has its headquarters in Lome. EBID’s subsidiary ERIB also has shares in the capital of the so-called “ECOMARINE”, which is a West African maritime transport company, while ERDF co-finances integration of electric networks of Niger; Benin; Togo; and Ghana., extending it towards Cote d’ivoire.

Simply put, ERIB—concentrating on promoting the private sector and commercial sub-sectors in the ECOWAS zone—grants medium and long-term loans for commercial projects in all sectors; conversely ERDF—specializing in the disbursement of funds to the public sector—finances basic economic infrastructure and poverty-alleviation projects. These include medium and long-term concessionary loans for basic infrastructure, as well as economic and social projects in member states.

Ghana and EBID
Ghana naturally has a relationship that is expressed through its relationship as a member of ECOWAS. More recently, though, EBID came closer to home in Ghana when in May this year, no less than the incumbent Minister of Finance Dr.Kwabena Duffour was elected Chairman of the governing board of the ECOWAS Bank for Development and Investment (EBID) at the end of the bank’s ninth ordinary session in Accra.
At the same meeting, Duffour said that in Ghana, EBID had financed private sector in the areas of hotel, infrastructure, engineering and social amenities. With regard to the public sector, EBID’s interventions in Ghana include electrification of 114 communities in the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions to the tune of $30 million; modernization of the headquarters of the Ghana national fire Service at the cost of $15 million.

In October, Ghana News Agency reported that EBID is negotiating with Chinese banks “to raise $1.5 billion to finance infrastructure projects in four French-speaking countries.” It further reported that in July this year, EBID signed a credit line of $150 million with India for various projects in member states. The Accra meeting was likely to also appoint a new president of the bank, as well as set new limits in authorized capital for the bank.

The meeting would conclude with Dr.Duffour himself saying that the meeting discussed strategies to make the institution “more relevant to West African economies in the face of the current financial crisis in Europe.”
Given these statements, it then beggars serious belief that any Ghanaian might feel that an “aid-exit plan” needs to be found. None needs finding. We already have it right here in the sub-region we like to call the ECOWAS zone.

Add to that the fact that ECOWAS is finalizing a Common External Tariff(CET) for its customs union, which would, in theory, give the sub-region some clout at the World Trade Organisation, and you have an ECOWAS that needs monitoring now more than ever to ensure that it delivers a sustainable and prosperous West Africa to all its citizens.

In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" ( Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on / Mobile: +233.268.687.653.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Towards a Continental AU Government?

Towards a Continental AU Government?
By E.K.Bensah jr

When The 12th Ordinary Session of the Africa Union Assembly of the Heads of State and Government ended on 3rd February 2009 with a call by the heads of State for continental government, the election of the late, controversial Libyan leader Al-Qaddafi as chair of the AU for one year helped deepen skepticism about what some believe to be lofty ideals of a United States of Africa. 

Not a New idea
Let’s face it: the idea of a United Africa is not new. Ghana’s own first, late head of State Dr.Kwame Nkrumah continues to remain the quintessential pioneer of a United Africa. His call is what would stir him to join the countries of Algeria, Guinea, Morocco, Egypt, Mali and Libya in 1961 under what would be called the Casablanca bloc; this group believed in a federation of African states. As a counterweight, the Monrovian bloc, led by Senegal’s Senghor—comprising  Nigeria, Liberia, Ethiopia and most of the former French colonies—believed that unity should be achieved gradually, through economic cooperation.

It is fair to say that the age-old duality of what would represent an united Africa continues to play out in the new terms of rapidists and instantists. However, for whatever one might think or say about al-Qaddafi, it is that he had been consistent in his dream about an Africa with one military, passport, and one foreign policy.

What many observers had been attributing to the Libyan leader of a continental African Union government is in fact a follow-up of the Grand Debate of Accra in 2007.

From AU Commission to AU Authority
The idea is to establish an “African Union Authority” that would replace the existing AU Commission. According to the late Libyan president, it would have been a “government of the union.”  According to out-gone AU Chairman, Tanzanian Kikwete, who held the post from 2008-2009, the new Authority should have been launched and made operational in July 2009. It will have a President and Vice President, while present Commissioners of the AU Commission will serve as secretaries, with portfolios structured along nine areas of shared competence. These include free movement of persons; goods and services; international trade negotiations; peace and security matters and foreign affairs.

In fact, in July 2009, in Sirte, Libya, the AU Assembly did adopt a decision on the modalities of the Transformation of the AUC into an Authority.
The idea remains for the Authority to exercise its functions on the basis of the principle of subsidiary with regards to Member States and Regional Economic Communities (REC’s). It shall have competence in continent-wide poverty reduction, free movement of persons and goods, peace and security, coordination of common defence policy of the continent as well as coordination of foreign policy of the continent among others.

While there remain a number of challenges associated with this enterprise, perhaps the two biggest sticking points find expression in the relationship between any putative AU Authority and the regional economic communities (RECS), as well as the legal implications of a continental government. As regards the RECs, many diplomats are unclear what the roles of the RECs should be, and speculate whether they should not first be strengthened with a view to integrating them into a government. Secondly, the AU Authority would not merely be a matter of semantics, but involve the amendment of the AU Constitutive Act. This would certainly represent a boon to the naysayers who believe this would stall the project indefinitely.

If the 2006 “AU study on Union government” is anything to go by, some challenges have been identified which require some attention if the RECs are to succeed in their mission as building blocks towards deep continental integration. Almost all RECs are “inward-looking” and consider their objective (economic union or political federation) at regional level as the ultimate goal. There is no road-map at the level of the RECs for their eventual integration into a continental union; there are duplications of some AU organs at the level of RECs, notably the parliament, development/investment bank, and the ECOSOC. More importantly, there seems to be no vision in the RECs for a continental agenda.

Because of that, there is need for the AU to take the lead in the promotion of the integration agenda at the continental level.

Another challenge is related to the rationalization debate that is currently underway.You may re-call that in my earlier posts, I referred to South Sudan being member of COMESA, and contemplating becoming a member of East African Community. If one had a proper rationalization underway, whereby one AU member state can belong to only one REC, South Sudan would never have even contemplated the decision of being member of another REC.

Currently, for example, Southern and East Africa are covered by SADC, COMESA, EAC, IGAD and CEN-SAD; some countries belong to up to four RECs. The report maintains that “besides the eight RECs recognized by the AU, there are a number of customs and/or monetary unions whose mandate and work somehow duplicate what the eight RECs are expected to do”. For example, five of the SADC members belong to the Southern African Customs Union; while eight of ECOWAS members belong to the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) which has economic union as an objective,and the six members of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) an organization that also has economic union as an objective, are members of ECCAS.

These shortcomings in terms of the objective of rational regional economic integration notwithstanding, the logic of using the RECs “as building blocks for the eventual deep, continental integration remains valid”, the study continues. The challenge is “in aligning, synchronizing and harmonizing the integration efforts of member states, the RECs themselves, and the AU”. As a consequence, “a road-map for the attainment of deep continental integration and the establishment of Union Government should learn, first, from the difficulties experienced in the implementation of the two previous road-maps (i.e. the Lagos Plan of Action and the Abuja Treaty); second, from the experience of the RECs as the building blocks; and, third, from the past four years of the existence of the AU”.

Hence to facilitate the Union Government project, it is important to also address the current problems faced at the regional level. It is fair to say that while there exist a number of protocols facilitating the addressing of these challenges, the stages of development of the RECs vary, and are likely to slow down the attainment of any Union government of AU member states.

you can also find this article on JOY online:

In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" ( Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. He is also Ag.President of the Association of Ghanaian Journalists in ICT (AJICT-Ghana).You can reach him on / Mobile: +233.268.687.653.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cote D’Ivoire 2011, or A Tale of ECOWAS & The AU’s Test of Legitimacy?

“The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
Cote D’Ivoire 2011, or A Tale of ECOWAS & The AU’s Test of Legitimacy?
By E.K.Bensah Jr

At first, it looked like just another African electoral headache: a relatively peaceful first round that set the stage for a second round; and a round which, despite initial figures supporting the opposition, would end with the declaration of the incumbent as winner. So far, so familiar. 

Soon after, one would see a flurry of envoys from both the African Union and its regional counterparts in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) shuttling up and down the two headquarters of the AU and ECOWAS in Addis, and Abuja respectively. In December 2010, the AU was quick to appoint South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki, whose mediation efforts had been instrumental in the 2005 peace accord that brought about cessation of hostilities. Mbeki would be replaced soon after by the Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga as the AU envoy. This was indeed unprecedented given his erstwhile combative comments that Cote d’Ivoire should be dealt with a strong hand with rapid, military intervention.

The appointment by the AU of Odinga was from the outset highly problematic as it suggested to the outside world that the AU was in favour of power-sharing—despite protestations to the contrary. Secondly, given that Gbagbo had dealt with his presidential “equals” five years prior, it was quizzical for the AU to dispatch what Gbagbo’s entourage would later call a “mere Prime minister”. Though Odinga was quick to talk of peaceful measures to resolve the crisis, all his many attempts to enable concessions from the incumbent leader of Cote d’Ivoire proved futile.

In January 2011, diplomatic success would also elude the West African troika of the presidents of Cape Verde (Pedro Pires); Benin (Boni Yayi); and Sierra Leone (Ernest Coroma) who all left Abidjan without any concessions from Gbagbo.

ECOWAS was quick to react to the post-electoral breakdown in Côte d’Ivoire, coming out firmly in support of Ouattara’s election, which was firmly endorsed at an extraordinary summit in Abuja on 7 December 2010, and attended by seven heads of state. The summit would suspend Côte d’Ivoire from all ECOWAS decision-making bodies and make an appeal to Gbagbo “to yield power without delay”.

 When only ten ECOWAS member states met on 24 December, they issued a communiqué that “legitimate force” as a “last resort” would be used in the event of failed attempts to mediate the crisis. The majority of the international community went agog, with claims that “military intervention” was being considered at a time when pacific measures were possible. This was strange, given that nowhere in the communique does the statement even use the term "military intervention".

Power Players
Critical to understanding the unprecedented nature of this crisis is the role of intergovernmental and regional institutions—key among which are ECOWAS and UEMOA. West Africa’s unique case of having an AU-recognized regional economic community (REC) under ECOWAS coexisting with the smaller UEMOA (comprising eight francophone ECOWAS members) has been a reality of the sub-region since 1994. Since then, there have been crises in the UEMOA countries, including Guinea-Bissau, Niger, and Togo. Interestingly, this was the first time UEMOA would be proactive in sanctioning a member state. Given that the West African Central Bank is located in the country, it was even more significant, as it spoke volumes about how far UEMOA was apparently prepared to go in economically-strangling the economy of Cote d’Ivoire to ensure it would comply with demands of ECOWAS. When this was coupled with efforts of ECOWAS, it symbolized a veritable force against the obduracy of Gbagbo. 

Though ECOWAS had acted first by convening a meeting soon after the crisis erupted in December 2010, and which lead to the suspension of Cote d’Ivoire, the AU—as the putative custodian of continental peace—was equally quick to ensure it was right in the thick of resolving the crisis. The execrable quality of that intervention has already been touched upon, but what has yet to be addressed is the intervention by the United Nations – or lack thereof.

While it is true that the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was quick to proclaim Outtara as the president, through information that came from his special representative in that country Y J Choi, the conspicuous absence of the UN Office on West Africa, headed by Said Djinnit is equally noteworthy. Much of the media was focused on Choi and surprisingly less on UNOWA. This is curious, considering its mandate, among many, “to facilitate systematic and regular linkages in the work of the UN in the sub region, to define and harmonize national and sub regional policies and strategies…” Beyond Choi and Ban, not once did we see or hear Djinnit make a statement about the crisis. Clearly, even the “good offices role” that has been conferred it was not made available.

Interestingly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was in his most-activist mode yet. First came the immediate backing of Outtara. Secondly, it would be a UN/French-sponsored helicopter attack on Gbagbo’s residence in late March, where stockpiles of heavy weapons had been kept. It would be this attack that would culminate in the beginning of the end for Gbagbo.

As for the AU, it seemed to have another chance to redeem itself under increasing criticism of its inconsistent stance on the crisis. Time and again, member states were divided as to whether there should be a re-count or whether it was actually Gbagbo who had won, with Angola and Equitorial Guinea being two of the foremost proponents of the anti-Outarra camp. That the head of state of the latter, Teodoro Obiang, would be elected by Central Africa at the AU’s powerful Peace and Security Council to the rotating chair of the AU Commission has done little to improve the image of the AU.

Diplomatic Divisions
Furthermore, the composition of the panel – comprising South Africa; Mauritania; Chad; Tanzania and Burkina Faso—was considered problematic, especially with former coup-leader of Mauritania heading the panel, and a skeptical (and some might say duplicitous)  South Africa which felt Gbagbo had been dealt too harsh a blow.

Though each had their entrenched positions, it was clear that the real and influential power-brokers in South Africa and Burkina Faso were diametrically opposed. Burkina’s Blaise Compaore was fiercely resisted by Gbagbo’s supporters. The Jeunes Patriotes and other Gbagbo loyalists regard Compaoré as having been complicit in the original insurgency staged by the Forces Nouvelles that led to the coup in September 2002, and which are strongly allied to Ouattara before and after the elections, and now working through ECOWAS to prepare the ground for a military solution. 

Conversely, media reports indicate that South Africa’s Jacob Zuma made claims of voter irregularity, which was bound to antagonize ECOWAS even more. South Africa’s 1st February edition of the “Daily Maverick” maintained: “it is tragic that this ever-increasing pissing contest between South Africa and Nigeria over who has the most influence on the Dark Continent is being fought over the future of an entire country.”  Arguing that “the AU’s involvement…stands in direct contrast to the way Madagascar coup was handled in 2009”, the paper  goes on: “In Cote d’Ivoire, every man and his dog wants to have a say, especially those who disagree with Ecowas.

To buttress the idea of an apparently-antagonistic role of South Africa was the public statement by ECOWAS Commission President Victor Gbeho. Speaking in Abuja, Gbeho warned of disunity towards the Ivoirian crisis. “The concern we have is that apart from some geo-political interests by some countries, there are others that are encouraging Gbagbo not to leave,” he said. “Because of certain individual interests, some countries have decided to break the tradition of solidarity in ECOWAS. What is happening is a matter of serious concern to ECOWAS and the international community, as certain countries have taken sides.”

                Gbeho further accused South Africa of stationing a warship in Côte d’Ivoire’s coastal waters, “apparently in anticipation of any military action”. The South African Defence Ministry said the SAS Drakensberg was a supply vessel undertaking a routine training operation in West Africa. For a ship to appear at a time when divisions were emerging has only lent further credence to a South African interference in a very West African conflict which hard-line-stance was ostensibly being spearheaded by Nigeria.

Furthermore, despite the fact that Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan was given a second mandate as ECOWAS Chairman, the sub-regional body’s absence was made all the more conspicuous because of his re-election as President in the Nigerian elections. Predictably, this gave rise to speculation that he was too preoccupied in exercising his franchise to care about ensuring ECOWAS’ leadership was shown and felt. The reality is that ECOWAS was seeking to solicit UN Security Council support—as per the provisions of Chapter VII of the UN’s Charter – to continue with a solution predicated on “legitimate force.”

The UK-based Africa Research Institute reports that “Cote d’Ivoire is the latest testing ground for Africa’s regional institutions.” Truth be told, it is more than that: it has exposed heretofore latent cleavages between two of the biggest financial contributors to the AU who double as hegemons in their own right – Nigeria in West Africa and South Africa in Southern Africa.

Even if one is to dismiss what the Daily Maverick writes about it being “bewildering…that South Africa so reliably goes along with countries that are consistently riding roughshod over their own people’s basic rights…”, what is clear is that in the long run, it has been African diplomacy – for all the bluff and bluster – that has taken a blow.

This is because this conflict has revealed how both an AU and ECOWAS failed to clarify the qualitative nature of "legitimate force". The use of “legitimate force” was inevitably going to be about the utilisation of an ECOWAS Standby Force(ESF), comprising some 6,500 men, that would act as a Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC) force to oust Gbagbo. 

The AU has been working on a grand project of an African Standby Force for many years now. Discussions of it reached a climax during the celebration of its Year of Peace and Security (climaxed on 21st September, 2010). It is from this ASF that there are regional nodes (ECOWAS represents the West African flank). The AU is fully aware of this development--as is ECOWAS. 

For both the ECOWAS and AU’s peace and security architecture, such a dent at their credibility is significant as it calls into question a far-from-coordinated approach to resolving crises on the continent – despite the regional and continental mechanisms that exist through the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework and the AU’s Peace and Security Council. Contrasted with the 2009 crisis in Madagascar, where SADC was given room to play its regional role with the AU offering more of an ancillary support, the narrative of this crisis is certainly a case of one step forward, two steps back in how the AU conducts diplomacy under the ambit of its putative peace and security architecture.

Even more significantly, what the Ivorian crisis has revealed is an absence of a continental framework—never mind regional – to address electoral crises. As AU member states move increasingly towards democratization, the one constant will be management of elections. Foreign and sub-regional observers are all well and good, but to avoid a repeat of the Kenyan and Zimbabwean models of governance, it behooves regional institutions, and the African Union, to certainly nip the migraine of future electoral headaches definitively in the bud.

In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" ( Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on / Mobile: 0268.687.653.


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