1 March 2013

West Africa: Rapid Integration Essential


The immediate aftermath of the Second World War, followed by the attainment of independence (as in the case of the then colonised African nations), saw the emergence of a multitude of international institutions; some global and some regional. Regional bodies like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) constitute supplementary groupings that seek to address issues that closely affect their member states.

It is a fact that regional bodies tend to be more effective than those with a global base. This, of course, is so because while regional bodies, thanks to proximity, can meet and share information on a more regular basis, the same thing cannot be said for those with global membership. Also, the close cooperation that exists between the constituting member states of these regional bodies is made possible by the composition of the socio-economic and cultural background of their people.

The 42nd Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of States and Governments of ECOWAS ended in the Ivorian city of Yamusskoro yesterday. Dozens of protocols have been conceived and the non-implementation of some ofthese protocols had profoundly impacted on the efforts at promoting the collective growth and development of the respective member states.

More is needed on the part of ECOWAS to guarantee the development of the sub-region from both a political and economic sense. It is through that that peace can be engendered.

This is essential in that with a mission statement encompassing a wide-ranging domain, the body's goal embraces economic integration, peace and security as top priorities. This is particularly important in that you cannot achieve such objectives in the absence of a binding, credible relationship.

This is based on the common argument that it is only when we share a common identity that some level of trust can be established to warrant interaction among our people in the region. Any tangible economic integration and engendering peace and security therefore demands, as a prerequisite, some political ties between the parties concerned. For instance, we will need a closer cooperation between the respective customs and security institutions of member countries to ease the burden of innocent citizens. Our agricultural and natural resource base are so diverse that a well-coordinated trade relation will put the region at an advantage over rival regional bodies.

Issues of security and illegal migration also demand that the countries that make up ECOWAS quicken integration and solidify agreements that commit them to maintaining peace. One of the reasons for Africa's persistent underdevelopment is that we have spent a great deal of time, since independence, fighting amongst ourselves.

It is imperative, therefore, that ECOWAS looks at issues like these and identify ways of fixing them. All this will warrant collaboration in not only providing information, but in conceiving ideas that could help engage those youths who venture onto the seas or pick up arms.

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