CREATING AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT FOR
WEST AFRICA TO REALIZE ITS DEVELOPMENT POTENTIALS
Dr. Toga Gayewea McIntosh
National and regional decision and policy makers are faced with several challenges in creating the enabling environment that would maximize development potentials within West Africa. They must build the courage and requisite capacities to: (i) differentiate critical needs from mere wants; (ii) identify and prioritize national and regional priorities; (iii) ensure a developmental macroeconomic policy environment now and into the future; and (iv) live the true spirit and meaning of economic cooperation and integration as contained in the treaty and protocols of ECOWAS. There are untapped natural resources sitting to be explored and utilized to create and distribute wealth to the various corners of Africa if the necessary courage and capacities are built. In essence, decision and policy makers including private sector actors and development partners must identify the true nature of these challenges and address them adequately if the development potentials within the West African region are to be maximumly exploited to yield greater development results. The process begins with finding out and appreciating the type, scope, and the location of the abundance potentials in the region that could and must be realized. The overarching mission should be aimed at ensuring a growth pattern that is sustained, equitable and nurtured through a dynamic structural change process. This article briefly touches on the nature of the challenges and suggests the holding of a regional expert group meeting to further diagnose them and to make appropriate recommendations to the ECOWAS Commission towards the creation of the required policy and institutional frameworks in line with the Community Treaty and Protocols. ADMA is ready and willing to partner in the organization of the expert group meeting in providing technical support towards the preparation of the policy and institutional framework documents.
Associated Challenges in the Equation
Harmonizing Conflicting Interests
The importance of getting a clearer understanding, appreciation, and agreement on what is critically needed to further national and regional development agendas at the beginning of the planning and programming stage must not be downplayed. There are instances in which public sector actors in many of our countries failed, either willingly or due to limited capacities, to clearly differentiate between what is essentially needed and what is not. The impact of this shortcoming lies in the misinterpretations of national needs and wants as perceived respectively by national governments, regional organizations, and development partners. Conflicting interests do lead to conflicting strategies, underperformance, serious policy mix up, and misplaced development interventions and outcomes. As a result of these conflicting interests, three critical challenges emerged and must be dealt with appropriately when managing national and regional development processes. One, hard-nose negotiations and trade-offs must take place to bring into harmony conflicting interests in the face of competing national and regional perceptions and views. Two, policy directions and interventions that have been agreed upon by all parties, during the programming stage, must be followed and accomplished in the face of growing demands on limited resources and capacities, misunderstanding of what is required on the part of project designers and implementation teams, who often come with their personal conception and ignorance. Unfortunately, many processes get at dead ends simply because these two challenges were not dealt with appropriately, bringing into question the effectiveness of allocated resources.
The policy implications for minimizing the effects of these associated challenges on the development management process is for the nations of West Africa to build the necessary capacities, including a strong political will, to design and manage an effective development process. Several interventions are required along the way to influence the shape, slope, size, context, trend, speed, and impact of development outcomes. The challenge is ensuring that these vital interventions are identified, harmonized, appropriately sequenced, and effectively executed to ensure a successful sustained development process within the region. An associated challenge is ensuring that ECOWAS Member States live the true spirit and meaning of partnership for shared growth and development. In this connection, national and regional governments, private sector players, and the donor community could learn from the athletic page to ensure the expected win-win situation. Development players should be considered as a team on the field of play in any geographical space, with the goal to move tactically in one direction with a focus on getting the ball into the net at the end of the goal line. Imagine what the results would be if the players, who are partners, were moving in different directions and shooting at different goals with all their energy using the team resources. The team and all its supporters and not the individual player would lose and become an unaccomplished team. Therefore, each player is obliged to adjust and re-adjust any handicap that would destroy that partnership to remain an effective player on the team. They work hard each day to strengthen that partnership through fair and open dialogue with each other and mutual respect. The extent to which players succeed in building and living the effective partnership would not only contribute to the harmonization of conflicting interest and ensures a win-win situation; but would enhance the impact of development interventions and outcomes.
Identifying and Prioritizing Priorities
A major programming challenge posed to national and regional policy makers is to reach agreement on a set of strategies and approaches in determining, synchronizing, and sequencing development priorities in national development agendas within the framework of the West Africa regional development agenda. The creeping global recession and slow recovery, coupled with the devasting effects of COVID-19, have complicated this challenge by compressing and redirecting aid packages, stalling private sector investment, and creating huge public sector budget deficits. In the face of prevailing challenges, every required intervention is a priority that must be met in the short to medium term just to keep the whole together. It would be useful to prioritize and incorporate policies and programs that would support growth and productive employment into macroeconomic frameworks of national development strategies and plans. This approach would signal and provide stronger support of private sector interventions on the development field of play. Lessons elsewhere suggest that this move would spur greater inflow of development resources and accelerate economic productivity. The critical task therefore is prioritizing priorities, particularly in post-conflict countries and those countries that are at the lowest end of the development ladder. Reaching a consensus and following it through the implementation phase is a major challenge. To ease the complexities of this challenge, it becomes necessary to conceptualize and put in place a longer-term development agenda that is focused on shared national and regional visions. Immediate and medium-term priorities must be single out and analyzed against existing capacities and resources and then sequenced accordingly. Producing and utilizing requisite institutional and human capacities would minimize the effects of these associated challenges on the development management process as and when they emerged.
Conclusion: A Need for a Regional Approach
The intuition is that failure to play effectively and efficiently these and other critical roles, the desired socio-economic transformation of West African nations shall remain an illusion, and the number of west African citizens degenerating into poverty shall continue to swell. A regional expert group meeting becomes timely to further discuss and diagnose the associated challenges and to make appropriate recommendations to the ECOWAS Commission aimed at the creation of the requisite policy and institutional frameworks that would refine and consolidate an enabling environment for the realization of West Africa development potentials in conformity with the Community Treaty and Protocols. ADMA is ready and willing to partner in the facilitation of the expert group meeting and in providing technical support towards the preparation of the policy and institutional framework documents