The case of Morocco's accession to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS): an assessment of trade and policy trends

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May, 2019 Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari (left) and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, Rabat June 2018  © AP. Amidst uncertainty in the European Union regarding the UK staying in the single market and shifts in Investment Treaty making, Africa might step up its game by consolidating its economic institutions. A focus on Morocco’s accession to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) under a data and policy-based analysis will aim to show the potential positive spillovers for the West African economic block. The initiative of the Kingdom of Morocco in February 2017 to join ECOWAS was accepted in principle by the Authority of Heads of States and Governments of the ECOWAS in June 2017. During the 51stordinary session, the Head of States indicated by ‘an acceptance in principle’, the request made by Morocco in the following terms: ²[…] the Authority supports in principle the granting of membership to the Kingdom of Morocco having noted the strong and multidimensional ties it has with Member States.² However, this potential accession has been received with some reservations by some existing member states, including Nigeria. To assuage some of these reservations, an impact study of the socio-economic implications of Morocco’s accession, was commenced, with supervision by a Committee of countries including Togo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria.  Curiously, the final report is yet to be submitted, as the authors pen this opinion mid-2019. Some have argued that, the slow process is occasioned by strong opposition mounted by the region’s largest economy – Nigeria. Regardless of the well documented gains from integration of trade across the region, with an attending effect of countries coalescing behind the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), Nigeria has been consistent in its disapproval of Morocco’s accession to the regional bloc. To put these in perspective, Nigeria’s push back is stringed along two primary lines of thought; risk of dumping from Morocco, and a subtler risk of losing its competitive edge as an economic power house in the sub region.  Yet a cursory read of historical trade data, points to some very interesting conclusions, which render the two fundamental points above counterfactual, to be charitable.

A general overview of the import patterns of Nigeria and other regional blocs across Africa

Figure 1 below provides a general overview of the import patterns of Nigeria and other regional blocs across Africa. Its major import partner over the 22-year period, has been Southern Africa ostensibly driven by the trade relationship with the rainbow nation in that region. Without prejudice to the profile of imports, the data again suggests that East Africa equally is a major import destination of Nigeria. Kenya and Ethiopia obviously fueling a lot of this trade inflow. Imports from West Africa ranks third indicating the preference in the pecking order for the Nigerian economy, over the focal period, despite being strong economy in the ECOWAS bloc with a population that can support an expanded import, again without prejudice to profile and structure of imports.

Figure 1: Regional Distribution of Nigerian Imports from 1995 to 2017