Economic Integration

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INTRODUCTION

There is no gainsaying the fact that states of the world are moving towards and are in favour of economic integration. Since this is the case economic integration is not a novelty to West African states as the sub-region has witnessed numerous attempts at integrating economies. In fact much more than any other sub-region of Africa, West Africa has attempted to apply the instrument of economic cooperation and integration to enhance its economic and political landscape1.

CONCEPTUAL AND THEORETICAL ANALYSIS OF ECONOMIC INTEGRATION

Economic integration is a very wide concept applied to economic activities arranged to foster economic development among a group of countries. Literally, integration implies unification or putting parts together into a whole. Mistry defines it as ‘the assignment of responsibility for formulating regional policies, developing rules and regulations; and for applying these policies to all markets at a regional level superseding national control2. A direct implication of this is that in any integration arrangement member-states must inevitably cede part of their national sovereignty over defined economic functions as well as policies and instruments to an authority or institution empowered to operate at the regional level. Thus in principle a supranational authority formulates and applies at a regional level, trade exchange, labour market, fiscal and monetary policies. In fact the arrangement may ultimately involve the promotion of a single currency and a common central bank which conducts a common monetary policy for the region. Coupled with this is the regulation of fiscal policies, free movement of factors of production across border and the institution of central legislative and judicial arrangements3. A clear case in point is the European Union. Hence on a whole economic integration implies the willingness to cooperate in promoting regional economic interest, coordinate economic activities in specific sectors and harmonise policies.It must be noted that the degree of free movement of goods and factors of production is a function of the stage of integration. This brings to the fore the fact that there are five levels of economic integration4. These are * The Preferential Trade Area (PTA ) : It is the lowest rung in the ladder and at this level lower tariffs are applied to intra-regional trade originating in member states than to extra regional trade. * The Free Trade Area (FTA): This is one level in which no tariffs are levied on other members, which accommodates the possibility that member country can apply its own regime of tariffs to goods and services originating from outside the FTA. * The Customs Union (CU): At this level members trade freely but apply a Common External Tariff (CET) to trade originating from outside the group * The Common Market (CM): It allows for free movement of all factors of production with the harmonization of economic policies. * The Economic Union (EU): This is where economic integration reaches its peak as it combines all the features of the earlier mentioned levels. Supranational bodies such as a common Central Bank are established.

WEST AFRICA AS A SUB-REGION

No doubt about the fact that colonialism was formally established in Africa following the Berlin Conference of 1884/1885, it must be noted that the region was partitioned among European powers with the exception of Ethiopia and Liberia. The sub-region under study was partitioned in this order: Nigeria, Gold Coast, the Gambia and Sierra Leone went to Britain, France got Dahomey, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Upper Volta, Niger and Chad; Germany took charge of Togo land and Cameroon, while Spain colonized Guinea Bissau. The area of concentration in this essay is those countries colonized by France and this explains why they are referred to as francophone countries. Having done this, the evolution of modern economic integration in francophone West Africa shall...
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