Academic journal article Researchers World

Economic Integration: Does Modern West Africa Need Any Historical Lessons?

Academic journal article Researchers World

Economic Integration: Does Modern West Africa Need Any Historical Lessons?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The question of economic integration of West Africa has remained one issue that has generated debate and comments from scholars, commentators and politicians of varied persuasions. Sometimes these groups are seen toeing same line of reasoning, at some other times they disagreed on points of policy framework. Whatever may have informed the divergence of opinions among these groups, what remains a recurring decimal that tends to lend weight to the action and inaction of West African political leaders is colonial rule - an epoch that has given rise to neo-colonialist forces. Colonialism as a phase on the African continent was reputed to have divided Africans along ideological lines of different foreign languages as well as European currencies and trading relations. However, the present study is of the opinion that the ugly history of colonial rule can be turned into a blessing by African leaders. Thus, it advocates that this may be possible in-so-far-as the leaders are able to see West Africans as a people with a shared history of European colonial rule and experiences, who should work in concert to determine the direction of their economic fortunes. The study relies on secondary sources for its reconstructions.

Keywords: Economic integration, common market, historical lessons, common currency, colonial rule, neo-colonialist forces, African leaders.

INTRODUCTION:

One of the results of the Berlin Conference of (1884-1885) was the partition of the African continent. Partition itself led to further division of the lands, rivers, and peoples of the region among the European powers. Thus, for instance, during the rest of the decades of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, what formed the basis of the description of African peoples included clichés such as "British West Africa", "French West Africa", "Portuguese South-West Africa", "German East Africa", among others. These clichés were a reflection of the patterns of European partition and colonisation of Africa at the time.

Over the years, European partition of Africa, and the subsequent imposition of colonial rule have become the basis of academic discourse among scholars and commentators of diverse opinion. And more often than not, the conclusion is that partition resulted in the separation of friends and relations to live under different European colonial administrations for as long as European rule in Africa lasted. For instance, it has been argued that the Yoruba group was split between the British and the French in Nigeria and Dahomey (now the Republic of Benin), respectively. The same was the story about the Efik and the Efiit groups who were known to have been split between the Germans (later the French) in Cameroon and the British in Nigeria (Osifodunri 2007). The impact of these exercises has occasionally resulted in border clashes in parts of Africa.

Beyond geographical partition of the continent, European rule in Africa is no doubt known to have laid a foundation for the economic integration of the region. In East Africa, for instance, the British established the East African Currency Board in 1916. In the West coast of Africa, too, a number of institutions were established by the British to facilitate communication among the nationals and foreigners. These institutions included the West African Airways, the West African Court of Appeal, and the West African Frontier Force. There were also the Bank of British West Africa (BBWA) and the West African Currency Board (WACB) (Agusiegbe 1991).

In this study, an attempt is made to use two of these institutions (the WACB and the BBWA) as an example to show that the current effort at West African economic integration may be successful, if the leaders can learn a lesson from the history of the colonial period in Africa and Europe. The study argues that the current efforts through the establishment of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) and the West African Monetary Agency (WAMA) may fail, unless the political leaders bend backwards to learn from the success story of the WACB and other colonial economic institutions in West Africa. …

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