External Influences on Regional Integration in West Africa: The Role of Third Parties

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    To be successful and meaningful, regional economic integration must first and foremost be driven by domestic forces. This is true also for West Africa. None- theless, regional integration does not happen in a vacuum. Numerous factors, ranging from historical and geopolitical to economic and ideological factors in- fluence this process. Among these are the external partners to the regional grouping.

    In the case of West Africa, former colonial powers, and more broadly the European Union (EU), have had a key impact on the contours, structure, con- tent and dynamics of West African integration. But they are not the only ones. For instance, other African countries/regions and the African Union (AU) have also had an influence. So have some international organizations. Increasingly, emerging players may play a role as well, among others.

    The aim of this paper is to briefly sketch some of the key influences of third parties to the regional integration processes in West Africa. In this context, particular attention is given to the European influence on West Africa, positive or not, which is then put in perspective with other influences. Section 2 looks at the influence of the European Union as a role model and source of inspiration for integration objectives and institutional setting, whereas Section 3 highlights the European support, notably in terms of development assistance, to West African integration. Section 4, 5 and 6 sketch the roles of other international partners, the pan-African dynamics and emerging players, respectively. Section 7 reflects on the ambitions of the economic partnership agreements promoted by the European Union, as a comprehensive set of reforms dynamics for integration, and how it can backfire. Finally, Section 8 concludes by stressing the primary role of endogenous dynamics in West African regional integration, which can at best only be accompanied by third parties, not more. 

    Photo By Paul-W

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