Since the 1960s, countries in West Africa have gradually moved towards greater regional integration, most notably through the establishment of two regional economic communities (RECs), ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and UEMOA (West African Economic and Monetary Union, WAEMU). Interest in greater political and economic cooperation has increased significantly since the 1990s and was further strengthened by the beginning of the negotiations of the EU-ACP Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) in 2002. ECOWAS and UEMOA have received an enhanced mandate for facilitating and driving integration, but progress has been uneven and substantial obstacles remain. At the same time, the existence of regional agreements and institutions has become an important factor in the politics of the member states, including but not only in cases where peace-keeping interventions have occurred under regional auspices.
To better understand the movement towards regional integration, DfID has commissioned ODI to undertake a scoping exercise on the political economy of West African regionalism that examines the political, economic, social and institutional factors and constraints to regional integration, how the regional dimension affects country change processess, and how available political economy analysis tools and frameworks can best be applied to such issues. The emphasis of the study is on the ECOWAS and UEMOA member states, as well as these organisations’ public mandates for regional integration and inclusive growth as a basis for establishing what has been and might be achieved.