Annual Forum Papers

What is the impact of regional trade agreements on economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa? Case study on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

  • Year: 2015
  • Organisation: SOAS
  • Author(s): Benjamin Eveslage
  • Countries and Regions: Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Session 4: Market integration and trade

Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) and their outcomes for developmental purposes have puzzled economists and governments, motivating a considerable literature on their supposed benefits and drawbacks. At the same time, the number of RTAs in sub-Saharan Africa has exploded – a proliferation referred to by the IMF and UNECA as “Africa's spaghetti bowl”. On closer inspection, these agreements take on various forms based on a number of variables including the depth of integration, the types of member countries, and the reciprocal or unilateral application of trade liberalisation policies. The growing number, diversity and complexity of RTAs frame the pertinence of broad contextual analysis when it comes to assessing an RTA's growth impacts. As such, this paper takes on a critical engagement of the theory and empirical evidence within this debate for both intra-African and North-South RTAs to apply to a case study of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).