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Authors: ABUTUDU, M. I. M.
Issue Date: Aug-1988
Abstract: The formation of ECOWAS is usually seen as a-decisive attempt to reorient the economies of West Africa inward in a framework of collective self-reliance. While the absence of the necessary political will is usually identified as the basic constraint to the effective take off of the organization, there is usually no attempt to situate the difficulties in mustering this political will in the concrete situation of underdevelopment and dependence, that is, the structural conditions under which policies of integration are formulated and are expected to operate. On an equally crucial note, the issue of how adopted integration measures affect, or may affect the goal of breaking out of underdevelopment and dependence is either neglected or treated in abstraction. study focuses on the impact of the structures and processes of underdevelopment, exemplified in the external orientation of the-economies of West Africa, on the creation of ECOWAS and the community's choice, elaboration and implementation of concrete measures of intergration. The general character of West African states lies essentially in their incorporation into the world economy as peripheral states and therefore, a common orientation to foreign trade, aid and investments as the fundamental basis of accumulation and social reproduction. However, the conditioning impact which this singular process of incorporation has on each member state is mediated by certain factors such as resource endowment, special external ties and the peculiar manifestation of the post-colonial state. In this context, the character of national accumulation and social reproduction contain objective specificities which imply peculiar patterns of impact and expectations from incorporation into the world economy. At both the singular and specific levels of incorporation, integration and the measures that chart its motion have opportunity costs for member states. These opportunity costs are based on the impact, actual or potential, of joint measures on the accumulation and reproduction process. It is therefore argued that the explanation for support or resistance to policies of integration must be sought in their impact on the accumulation and reproduction of the economy and state. This, in reality, implies that member states evaluate integration measures in terms of their implications for external expectations and specific foreign ties. In line with this, we argue that a fundamental facilitating factor in the formation of ECOWAS was the common orientation to certain external ties and expectation from such ties, forged among West African states through British entry into the EEC in 1973- in effect, the partial merging of the two preferential zones that had hitherto bifurcated West Africa. This common orientation underlines much of the distributive policies of ECOWAS, which have been largely predicated on the aid provisions of the Lome Conventions. As the externally induced economic crises of the eighties took their toll, the common orientation has also become visible in the attempt to create an ECOWAS common currency whose stability may be anchored on an EEC guarantee, The opportunity costs arising from the common orientation to foreign trade are well exhibited in the general tendency to resist the community trade liberalization programme during economic crisis. As a logical outcome of the crisis of peripheral accumulation, protectionism has become a ready tool for member states which feel that trade liberalization in ECOWAS endangers domestic prospects of accumulation. At the specific level of incorporation, integration measures indicate different structures of opportunity costs for member states. Trade liberalization and a common payments system are actively supported by some states and actively resisted by others. The rules of originating products accord with the dominant interests in some states as indicated in their indigenization and nationalization policies whereas in others where the dominant interests in the state are expressed through the conspicious absence of such policies, the rules of origin threaten to undermine accumulation.
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