Exploring Issues In Policy Making Process Of ECOWAS: Achievements, Prospects And Challenges

Background of ECOWAS

ECOWAS stands for the Economic Community of West African States. This community represents a regional group consisting of 15 West African states to promote the economic integration and prospect in all the fields of the society. The union was established on 28th May, 1975 by signing the Treaty of Lagos among the neighboring countries Benin, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Cote d’ Ivoire, Guinea, Ghana, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria and Togo. ECOWAS was set up with a purpose of making it a pillar of the Economic Community of Africa in order to establish the prosperity in that region though the achievement of self-sufficiency. It also serves the purpose of a trading union with an objective of creating a single and large trading alliance through economic cooperation among the member states. 43 years down the line, the initiative of ECOWAS for creating a borderless region with the population having access to abundant resources and exploiting those for a sustainable environment was successful to some extent. However, the initiative has both the prospects and problems. In this research paper, the researcher will explore the achievements, prospects and crucial problems of ECOWAS to find out the issues in the policy making and the ways to address those.

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The aim of the research study is to illuminate the issues in the policy making process followed in ECOWAS for implementing regional development in the 15 West African member states.

The objectives of the study are:

  • To explore the prospects and challenges of ECOWAS while planning for economic integration and development in the region
  • To evaluate the achievements of ECOWAS over the years
  • To examine the issues in policy making process in ECOWAS
  • To recommend ways to overcome the challenges or issues faced by ECOWAS

ECOWAS was formed not only to establish economic integration among the West African countries, but also to establish a political stability and peace in the region. All these aspects are interrelated and the committee of ECOWAS aimed to address these to form a region that is governed in accordance to the principles of democracy, good governance and strong rule of law and legislations. The population of the integrated region was provided the access to efficient health care and education, a peaceful and secured environment to live and a prosperous economy with an opportunity of free movement. The committee operates in three languages, English, French and Portuguese, as 5 member countries are English speaking, 8 French speaking and 2 are Portuguese speaking. By 2018, ECOWAS is serving almost 300 million people of the 15 West African countries through the implementation of various sectoral developmental programmes for creating wealth. However, along with the achievements, the committee also faces challenges in terms of language barriers, widespread poverty, weak finances, human rights abuse, single currency and many more. This research paper is aimed at exploring the issues of policy making process in ECOWAS. To conduct the study, the researcher will investigate the prospects, challenges and achievements of ECOWAS over the years to gain knowledge on the activities of the union. The significance of the study is to contribute in the world of literature on the issues faced by ECOWAS while making developmental policies and the ways to overcome those.

Research Questions

According to the official website of ECOWAS, the union of 15 West African countries has some fundamental principles that address the aspects of interdependence and equality of the member countries, solidarity, peaceful coexistence of the nations, collective self-sufficiency, inter-state cooperation in all sectors of economy and political existence, promotion of human rights, accountability in social justice and development, promotion of democratic system in each nation, and fair and equitable distribution of benefits and costs of the economic integration and cooperation. Since its establishment in 1975, the union has been working to implement the principles in the member countries for the economic and social benefit of the citizens. Under the programme Vision 2020, ECOWAS is further promoting the regional integration and economic cooperation of the member countries through a clear goal of significantly improving the living standard of the citizens by launching various inclusive programmes aimed towards a better future in the long run. The cultural, economical, ecological and linguistic diversity of the region presents both the opportunities as well as challenges to the integration process. Various strategic and critical initiatives, such as, single currency programme, evaluation and monitoring of the macroeconomic convergence, management of ECOWAS Macroeconomic Database And Multilateral Surveillance System or ECOMAC and integration with other international and regional developmental and financial institutions, were undertaken from time to time to achieve the aim of ECOWAS, that is, harmonizing the macroeconomic policies with the promotion of the private sector developmental initiatives for the economic integration and development of West African countries. Over the years, many specialized agencies working on the healthcare, education, financial sector, human rights have become part of ECOWAS.

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As stated by Ani and Amusan (2016), ECOWAS has helped in improving the overall social and economic condition of the member countries. It has contributed significantly in achieving entrenchment of the democratic culture, improved its performance in dealing with the conflicts, prevention of crisis and restoration of the social, political and economic stability of the region. ECOWAS was successful in establishing Common External Tariff (CET), youth empowerment, multilateral surveillance, liberalisation of trade, customs union, development of mines, agriculture, industrial policy, and infrastructure of transport, energy and telecommunication. The ECOWAS Regional Integration Agenda will be supported and promoted once the Abidjan-Lagos Highway Project is completed and this is expected to stimulate the investments, reduce poverty, improve the security and enhance the accessibility within the region. The union is also working towards establishing a single currency for the region within 2020, which is expected to promote the economic and trade integration further. It has also proposed to launch a single biometric identity card valid in the entire region to promote the free movement of the citizens and improved employment opportunity across the region.

Objective of the Study

As stated by Bakare (2014), despite the efforts by ECOWAS, the West African countries faced relatively poor development and economic stagnation. The author highlighted problems like, high level of mobility of the African people and its consequences on the citizenship regulations, problems with management of natural resources and food security and many other political stability issues. A similar issue was also highlighted by Ndiaye in his paper, published in 2013. The author mentioned that human trafficking and labor migration are two major obstacles in the path of development in Africa. In spite of the efforts made by ECOWAS, the percentage of human trafficking is quite high in that region. The migration management is also not ass fruitful as expected by ECOWAS.

Metondji (2015) conducted a study on the impact of language barrier on the regional integration. As the region is dominated by 3 different languages, English, French and Portuguese, the author found in his study that the language barrier often create problems in the implementation of the developmental policies by ECOWAS. The language problem is a significant issue for ECOWAS and the committee is working towards integrating the region based on an indigenous cross border language. The language barrier creates an opportunity for a planning policy on regional languages.

Forson (2013) conducted a study on globalisation and the developmental issues of the ECOWAS and he found that although ECOWAS was putting much effort in achieving regional integration in the West African region, the progress was quite slow and did not yield significant outcomes. The author highlighted that there should be scope for favorable environment for trade, protectionism for markets for achieving the goals of ECOWAS. The absence of monetary union, instability and security threats and absence of institutional framework are other major issues that create obstacle for ECOWAS to implement the measures successfully.

Rönnbäck (2008) highlighted the ECOWAS’s role in developing the future of West Africa. The author mentioned that West Africa is characterised by possibilities as well as problems. The civil wars and population living in poverty are coexisting with abundance of natural resources, reconstruction efforts of the post conflict period, and attempts for achieving the regional cooperation. As the region has supply of strategically important natural resources, it can play a major role in terms of providing supply of these resources to the large economies like, the US, EU and China. Hence, the author presented 3 alternative scenarios for feasible future developments in the region, namely, business as usual scenario, catastrophe scenario and a best case scenario, which could be adopted by ECOWAS.

Literature Review

Thus, from the above literature review, it can be inferred that there are research works conducted by many scholars on the aspects of different types of potentiality of the West African region and the role played by ECOWAS to achieve its goals. However, there was no research work on the challenges of policy making faced by ECOWAS. The region has possibilities as well as problems, but challenges faced by ECOWAS during any policy making is more inclined towards administrative challenges. Through this research study, the researcher will focus on understanding the administrative challenges of the region and their impact on the activities and policies of ECOWAS, which are aimed at an overall development of the West African region.

Research methodology represents the process of data collection and analysis for the purpose of answering the research questions in the most rational and unambiguous manner. To conduct a research study, a researcher must collect suitable data and analyse it to get the findings of the research and research methodology depicts the basic plan for doing that. Research philosophy, approach, strategy, data collection and analysis process are the components of research methodology.

The philosophy of research depends on the origin, nature and development of the knowledge for the study. This represents the belief or assumptions about the process of data collection and analysis using the proper methods. The most commonly used research philosophies are interpretivism, positivism, realism and pragmatism. Under interpretivism, the researcher applies his observation and interpretation skills to analyse the research phenomenon qualitatively, based on the information gathered. Positivism enables the researcher to analyze the data quantitatively using scientific or statistical methods. Under realism, the independence of mind is important as it believes that there is a reality beyond the thinking of human mind. Lastly, pragmatism allows for applying both the qualitative and quantitative methods of research. In the given research, the researcher will apply the interpretivism research philosophy, as the study entails a qualitative analysis of the research phenomenon. By applying this research philosophy, the researcher will analyse the gathered information by using qualitative descriptive method.

Research approach

Research approach consists of the detailed plan of the process of data collection, its analysis, interpretation and explanations. Thus, it depends on the nature of the research topic. The two major research approaches are inductive and deductive. Inductive research approach allows the researcher to generate a new theory from the gathered data while deductive approach enables the researcher to examine the information collected on the basis of already established theories. For the given study on the policy making issues of ECOWAS, the researcher will adopt the inductive research approach. As there is no research hypothesis, that needs statistical examination and qualitative method of study will be followed to answer the research questions, the inductive approach is more suitable to conduct the study in an exploratory manner and contribute in the world of literature.

Potentiality and Problems of West African Region

Research design represents a systematically approach of study used to synchronize the identified components and the data leading to a reasonable outcome. Research design follows a strategic method to have a proper direction and plan to conduct the study systematically within the schedule. The most commonly used research designs are descriptive research, correlational design, experimental and quasi-experimental research design. In the given study, the researcher will use the descriptive research design. This research design allows the researcher to explain or describe the findings from the collected information in an in-depth manner.

There are two types of data, primary and secondary. The data, which is collected directly from the field of study, is known as the primary data and the data, which is collected from published source of information, such as, books, peer-reviewed journal articles, newspaper articles, official websites, government publications and reports, is known as the secondary data. In the given research, the researcher will collect secondary data on the achievements of ECOWAS over the past years from official websites of ECOWAS and other journal articles, available from many libraries and online directories. Since, this research aims to evaluate the achievements of ECOWAS over the years and the challenges faced by it during policy making and implementation, interpretation of secondary data on the past performances of the committee is more suitable than analyzing primary data.

Going by the nature of the study, the research philosophy, approach and design will be chosen by the researcher that includes the framework for qualitative and descriptive data analysis process. The researcher will apply the descriptive method under qualitative analysis method using interpretation skills on the secondary data collected from various websites and journals to answer the research questions and fulfill the research objectives in the most logical manner. The researcher will also conduct an extensive literature review on the past research works of various scholars on related research topics to gain wide-ranging knowledge on the activities of ECOWAS and create the background of the research study.

Similar to any other research work, the following research on the policy making issues of ECOWAS also has some ethical issues. Firstly, plagiarism is a serious offence in the world of research and has serious consequences. Thus, the researcher will maintain the originality of the paper and therefore will cite the collected information properly. Secondly, the researcher will collect necessary permissions required to have access to the official data of ECOWAS. Thirdly, the data will remain confidential and will be used only for educational purposes.















Making a strategy

Making a framework

Literature review

Secondary data collection

Data analysis

Presenting the findings and discussion

Providing the conclusion

Thesis submission

(Source: Author)


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