African Union and the Challenges of Economic Integration and Development: A Study of Nigeria and Niger Republic

Cite this article: Rasheed, A. and Salawu, I. O. (2022). “African Union and the Challenges of Economic Integration and Development: A Study of Nigeria and Niger Republic”. Sokoto Journal of History Vol. 11. Pp. 155- 169.

DOI: 10.36349/sokotojh.2022.v11i01.004


AMBALI Rasheed

Department of Political Science, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin.

akanbi107@gmail.com 08052233679



Department of Politics and Governance, Kwara State University, Malete, Nigeria. ibrahimsalus@gmail.com 08054148183 


Nigeria and Niger Republic have for a long time been in strong economic relation which appeared to have been contributing immensely in the development and improvement of the two countries as they shared common frontier in the West African sub-region. The duo engaged in economic relation that involved exchange of commodities ranging from farm produce to manufactured goods respectively. To a very large extent the two countries could be said to depend on each other for food supply and satisfaction of other economic and social needs. Indeed, most Niger goods pass through Nigerian ports for imports and exports. However, in spite of this long term economic relations between them, they are yet to find an enduring solutions towards sustaining and developing their economies. Premised on the foregoing, this paper examines African Union and the challenges of economic integration and development in two West African countries of Nigeria and Niger republic. The aim is to identify the various challenges faced by the African union integration agenda in the economic integration and development of Nigeria and Niger republic. The paper adopted qualitative method with the use of documented data to gather relevant information and thematic analysis and researcher reflexivity to analyze the qualitative data collected. It observed that lack of political will; poor infrastructure; security issues and minimal intra-regional trade among others are some of the challenges hindering effective integration and development between Nigeria and Niger on one hand and African countries by extension. The paper concludes that for effective integration and development the aforementioned problem area must be effectively tackled.

Key words: African Union, Integration, Challenges, Economic Integration, Economic Development.



Over the years, Africa has been deeply engaged in the integration project, the motivating factors for regionalism particularly between developed and developing nations are not the same. For instance, Africa has adopted regional integration as a development strategy since 1960s mainly because of its potential socio-economic benefits. The desires for a reasonable level of political and economic independence, and the high welfare expectations of the people, have been considered as primary


reasons for the creation of regional economic and political organizations on the African continent. Evidence of this can be found in the guiding objectives of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) at its formation in 1963, which according to Mangwende (1984) include but not limited to the promotion of African unity; the achievement of a better life for the people of Africa; the promotion of international cooperation having due regard to the charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These objectives later transformed into the Lagos plan of action adopted at the April 1980 summit, which was designed to boost economic development and the integration of African economies by, in particular, recommending regional groupings and food self-sufficiency. This was later replaced by the Abuja Treaty in June 1991 which established the African Economic Community. The treaty was said to have envisaged in particular the creation, within a period of 30 years, of an African common market, a parliament, a central bank and monetary fund. Following the transformation of OAU to AU in 2002, the organization was equally saddled with the responsibility of accelerating and deepening the process of economic and political integration on the continent. Its founding act envisages bodies and institutions inspired in particular by the model of the European Union (The Africa-EU Partnership: 2013). More importantly, as contained in Article 3(c) of the AU Constitutive Act, the organization aim to accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent while Article 3(e) stated that, AU has it as part of its objective to encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition, Article 3(j) has it that the AU will promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies. Article 3(k) promotes cooperation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples (Constitutive Act of the African Union). Not only that African agenda 2063 also envisaged an integrated continent politically united and based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa‘s Renaissance. Consequent upon the attainment of independence by most African countries, the desire to create super-national institutions became necessary. This was because, leaders in Africa were anxious about multifaceted challenges of governance within the continent, particularly, the need to eliminate the remaining part of colonialism so as to promote the principle of self-determination and engender the establishment of truly sovereign states that would be free from all forms of external interference. And to also unite different independence states in Africa as a tool to achieving internally motivated development. Hence, the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on May 25, 1963 to serve as the much needed African super-national organization.

In a lecture delivered at ACARTSOD Tripoli, Libya in (2002) Abdalla opines that, the OAU was not formed in a vacuum. Its creation according to the author was the culmination of a long struggle by Pan-Africanist, a struggle which was said to have dated back to the 19th Century, with primary motive of promoting unity, solidarity and international cooperation among the newly independent African states. The organization did provide both practical resources and political force needed for countries in their struggle against colonization and championed the fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Notably, the OAU did make significant efforts towards the goal of regional economic integration. One of such was the famous Lagos Plan launched in 1985 and the adoption of the treaty establishing the African Economic Community (AEC), also known as the Abuja treaty in 1991. These were aimed at promoting continental unity through harmonized economic and security policies within Africa‘s Regional Economic Communities (REC). Although this was one motivation for the establishment of the OAU, severe limitations and constraints within the organization prevented it from effectively delivering on its mandate, hence, its dissolution and succession by the African Union in 2002. With the establishment of the AU, there were high expectations that the new



body would be a force for better change in Africa and an effective instrument for combating Africa‘s multifaceted challenges in the new millennium. However, it is almost six decades (59 years) after the creation of the OAU and two decades (20 years) after the transformation of OAU to the AU, the continent is yet to adequately address its multifaceted developmental challenges.

Nigeria and Niger Republic share a common land boundary which covers over thousand kilometers. Going by historical records, the two West African countries were colonial creation of Britain and France respectively which was born out of series of negations, treaties and conquests during the first decade of the 20thCentury. By 1960, the two countries got their political independence and have since exchange diplomatic missions and entered into various bilateral relations which border on trade, industry, culture, education and politics with a view to improving the socio-economic and political life of the citizenry. The duo established the Nigeria- Niger Joint Commission for cooperation in March, 1971 as a strategy towards promoting their socio-economic development. However, one of the perceived major problems to effective trade and integration in most Regional Economic Commissions is lack of political will. This is because some countries resist liberalization and tend toward protectionist policies to protect trade. Manifestation of this can be seen in the August 19, 2019 pronouncement by Nigeria government to close her land border. The closure seems to have generated issues between Nigeria and her neighbours (including Niger republic) and to that extent been criticized by them. Their criticism of Nigeria policy was based on the existing Free Trade Agreement in the sub region and the continent at large (to which Nigeria is a signatory) which seeks to eliminate restrictions on trade among African countries. The AU African Continental Free Trade Area‘s objectives is to create a single continental market for goods and services and expand intra-African trade across the Regional Economic Communities and African continent by extension. Although, Article 26 of the Protocol on Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes permits states to take certain restrictive measures so as to ensure compliance with their own local laws and Article 27 of the same Protocol permits restriction on the basis of security but members are not expected to apply the measures arbitrarily to cause unjustifiable discrimination between state parties(Bola, 2019 and the African Union Commission 2016). Amidst the foregoing scenario on how the AU hope to realize its integration agenda particularly as it affects Nigeria and Niger republic remain a serious challenge and a major concern for this paper. Premised on the foregoing, the paper examines African Union and the challenges of economic integration and development in two West African countries of Nigeria and Niger republic. To realize this objective, the paper is sub-divided into five sections. Section one introduces and gives the background information. Section two reviews the works of previous scholars in the study area. Methodology and discussion of results are contained in sections three and four respectively while the conclusion as well as recommendations is contained in section five of the paper.

Literature Review and Conceptual and Clarification

This section focuses on a review of some important concepts that are related to the research topic. These among others include; development, integration, economic development and integration.

The Concept of Development

Development like many other concepts in social sciences is very complex, and has been viewed differently by scholars across disciplines. The conception and interpretation of each of the scholars is to a large extent influenced by the orientations of their individual disciplines. Development of a nation in the opinion of Reginard, (1983) cited in Raji, (2014), is to a larger extent depends on efficient management of resources which involved the ability of the nation to have the capacity to


identify much of the available resources within its jurisdiction, and the economic opportunities for their optimal use. This, according to the author, involves some knowledge of the stock inventory of these resources and the ability to give a concrete control analysis over them in terms of their optimum application and effectiveness. As contained in Oladele (2005), Hirst and Peters posited that development suggests changes of an irreversible nature through time, the direction of which is characteristic of that which develops. Walter Rodney (1972) cited in Okonette (2006), opined that, it is wrong to absolutize development. Hence, the author relates it with another concept of underdevelopment. He however argued that underdevelopment cannot be understood in isolation. It must be conceptualized as a means of comparing levels of developments. Moreover, underdevelopment according to Rodney is not synonymous with absence of development but admitted the possibility of relating the concept to other aspect of life such as physical, mental and others. In the author‘s view every people have developed in one way or another and to a greater or lesser extent, underdevelopment makes sense only as a means of comparing levels of development. It is very much tied to the fact that human social development has been uneven and from a strictly economic view-point some human groups have advanced further by producing more and becoming wealthy.

Rodney also views development as a multi-lateral process. It is conceived within the context of the capacity for independently increasing ability by a people to live a more satisfactory life by way of exploitation of the resources of nature. The author emphasizes the universality of development given that where ever man was he increasingly responded to challenges posed by nature and steadily overcome them and moved to a higher standard of living. On why different people developed at different rate when left on their own, he stated ―part of the answer lies on the environment in which human group evolved and part of it lies on the superstructures of human society‖ (cited in Okonette:286). Superstructure here refers to social relations, forms of government, legal system, pattern of behavior and belief systems or ideology. In line with Rodney‘s view of development, Osagie (1995) cited in Lawal (2005) opined that development is a more inclusive concept with its social, political and economic facets. It is the qualitative and quantitative positive transformation of the lives of a people that does not only enhance their material well-being but also ensures their social well-being including the restoration of human dignity. It then means that development goes beyond economic indicators. Todaro (1989) cited in Ogwu (2002) differentiate three core values of development. The first core value according to the author is the ability to provide as many people as possible with their basic needs or the ability to acquire adequate food, shelter, healthcare and protection. The second value revolves around the perception of individuals or groups of self-worth and esteem as a respected member of society. The third value is that of freedom in the sense that individuals and society at large have an expanded range of choice, not only with respect to the material necessities for self-reproduction but also in their ability to have a say in, if not determine, the method and process by which values are allocated in the society.

Olusola (2020) perceived development to be a gradual growth of something so that it becomes strong and more advanced. A nation according to the author is said to develop when she has many industries and a very strong economic status. Whereas, a nation is classified as developing when she is poor and is trying to make its industry and economic system more advanced and strong by maximizing and appropriating every available national and international opportunities. The author however, noted that there are social and religious vices that may not allow the needed values to work and thereby impeding national development. National development in the opinion of the author manifests from two axis, the upper and lower. The upper being the national leaders who may



be doing all they know for national development but may fail in their efforts if there is no complementary effort on the part of the citizens which constitute the lower axis. As cited in Alo (2005), Seers (1969) opined that in consideration of development in a society, three pertinent questions must be asked; and these in his opinion are; what has been happening to poverty, unemployment and inequality? In his word, if poverty, unemployment, inequality in any society has been reduced to the barest minimum regardless of the volume of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in such society, the society can be described as developed. If on the contrary, the volume of GDP is increasing with poverty, unemployment and inequality at a very high level, then such a society is underdeveloped. In different African states; from Nigeria to Niger, inequality, unemployment and poverty are common features. The GDP and per-capital income is nothing to be proud about compared to the more industrialized West. By this analysis, Africa is a continent of developing states. Based on the foregoing therefore, development is conceived in the context of this paper as a multi-dimensional process involving the political, economic and social spheres of life of a people. It deals with the general welfare of the entire population of a state; the capacity of the political system to coordinate its affairs with little or no interference from external force(s), the level of social integration of the people, most especially in a plural society and of course the degree at which people are patriotic about the state. However, the focus here is on those issues, which for the past several years have hindered Africa‘s developmental aspirations.

Economic Development

Economic development remains the primary objective of the majority of the world‘s nations. The most crucial social task facing every government is how to raise the well-being and socio-economic capabilities of people. To this effect, government regularly disburses aid, undertook investments, frame policies and made plans towards achieving this goal, or at least to get closer to it. Economists sometimes attribute the state of material well-being of a nation to its per capita gross national income (GNI): the per person value of income earned by the people of a country over a given year or the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, which restricts itself to domestically produced income, and ignores net income received from other countries, such as dividends, interest or repatriated profits. However, it has been further argued that economic development cannot be identified, in a definitional sense, with the level or growth of per capita income. It is perhaps universally accepted that development is not just about income, although income (economic wealth, more generally) has a great deal to do with it. It is really a belief about the world, which is that the universal features of economic development—health, life expectancy, literacy, and so on— follow in some natural way from the growth of per capita income, perhaps with the passage of time. Implicit here is a belief in the power of aggregate economic forces to positively affect every other socio-economic outcome that we want to associate with development. The concept of development has been traditionally associated with economic development, but more recently it has evolved to encompass both social and economic development. In this integrated perspective, economic development is initially viewed as an engine for social development with several positive effects on economic progress at later stages. Although the concept of social development is inclusive of economic development, it differs from it in the sense that it emphasizes societal development at all levels of economic, political, social, and cultural aspects (Gore, 1973 cited in Shamsun, 2014). In order to solve social problems, planned comprehensive social change like social development is not enough, rather economic and cultural efforts at national and international levels are needed. Therefore, development in this context revolves around sustainable growth, poverty reduction, environmental protection, institutional transformation, gender equity and human rights protection. It also involves the upward movement of the entire social system in a society, i.e. the attainment of a number of


ideas such as a rise in productivity, knowledge, just institution and liberating attitudes. It entails provision of basic needs such as food, education, health, safe drinking water and shelter which usually is a function of continuing involvement of each individual in the social and material condition of his/her existence as a virtue.


The earliest trace of ―functionalism here referred to as integration may be seen in the writings of David Mitrany (1943) and in the utterances of a statesman, Jean Monnet, who was said to have advanced the argument of a peaceful, unified and co-operative world. The advocates were said to have discovered the cause of international tensions and conflicts in the crudely organized international system, looked at the national exclusivism and arbitrary fragmentation of the world as an outdated and a dangerous legacy of the pre-industrial age. The traditional doctrine of sovereignty and any form of aggressive and chauvinistic nationalism becomes a matter of aversion for the functionalists and as a solution to the war prone mentality of the world states, they optimistically lay emphasis on the need for regional co-operation and integration of the states that would naturally give way to the emergence of a new and war free world. More importantly, the theory and practice of international integration developed by David Mitrany, is said to have its roots in the nineteenth century concept of welfare cooperation. Such cooperation was conceived as a means to reduce the likelihood of wars among nations. It largely was the vision of Saint-Simon, who looked beyond the concept of laissez-faire and pleaded for welfare cooperation among nations to satisfy basic human needs. Thus he provided the link between lasting peace and the satisfaction of basic human needs (David; 1943). Some writers of international political theory as Karl Deutsch, E.Hass, Leon Lindberg  and  Stuart  Scheingold  have  picked  up  threads  to  develop  the  idea  of  ―integration‖  to denote either a process towards or an end-product of political unification among separate national units. Since they have taken a cue from functionalism, their integration theory should be taken as a developed form of the idea of ―functionalism‖ cited in Johari (2013).

Integration as a concept in contemporary sense comprises both a process of cooperation among states and institutions and a set of theories about that process. Integration theory desires the integration of two or more states to form a new and larger entity for defending themselves as well as for contributing to the situation of world peace. As cited in Johari (2013) Deutsch argues that integration is the attainment within a territory of a sense of community and of institutions and practices strong and widespread enough to assure, for a long time, dependable expectation of peaceful change among its population while Ernest Hass in his own, sees integration as the tendency towards the voluntary creation of larger political units, each of which self-consciously eschews the use of force in the relations between the participating units and groups. Joshua (2003:379) defines international integration as ―the process by which supranational institutions replace national ones – the gradual shifting upwards of sovereignty from state to regional or global structures‖. The foregoing suggests that the integration theory desires regional integration for the sake of international peace and security based on the consideration of supra-nationality. Through this process, the states in the form of international actors would be expected to voluntarily give up certain sovereign powers and evolve new techniques for tackling common problems. This theory challenged the foundation of realism, which relied strongly on state sovereignty and territorial integrity.



Economic Integration

Economic integration is said to be mainly a post-War phenomenon, as Machulp (1977) has observed that no subject index of any book in international economics prior to 1953 contains the entry integration and it was with the Marshal Plan for the reconstruction of Europe that the term came into official use. Economic integration theory was said to have been developed by the liberal economic thinkers and preceded the theory of political integration developed by the political scientists such as Ernst Haas and Leon Lindberg. Integration was conceived in two ways: either as a process or as a goal. Balessa (1969) defines economic integration as a process and as a state of affairs. In the liberal economic thought, as pointed out by El-Agraa, the international economic integration is mainly treated as concerned with the removal of all trade impediments between the participating nations and with the establishment of certain elements of cooperation and coordination between them. The economic integration was seen more as a process whose goal was considered the establishment of a political union. The minimum requirement of economic integration was considered as the removal of all the unnecessary and unnatural restrictions which hindered to free trade, because free trade was conceived as the key indicator of economic integration. Economic integration as described in Mark and Steve (2009) is interpreted to mean market integration and said to imply the process by which the economic barriers against exchange of goods, services, capital and people between two or more countries are eliminated or reduced. The process is said to start with a Preferential Trade Area (PTA), followed by a Free Trade Area (FTA), moved to a Customs Union and Common Markets and terminated at Economic and Political Union. Maiyaki, (2017) sees economic integration as an aggregate of the desire of nation-states to garner their resources together for the purposes of gaining comparative advantages within the region. The end product of economic integration as emphasized, encourages specialization, improves resource allocation and enhances industrialization through joint production of goods and services, as well as protection against adverse developments in world markets.

African Union and the Challenges of Economic Integration and Development

Nigeria and Niger have been in strong economic relation for a long time which appeared to have been contributing immensely in the development and improvement of the two countries as they shared common frontier in the West African sub-region. The duo engaged in economic relation that involved exchange of commodities ranging from farm produce to manufactured goods respectively. To a very large extent the two countries could be said to depend on each other for food supply and satisfaction of other economic and social needs. Indeed, most Niger goods pass through Nigeria ports for imports and exports. However, in spite of this long time economic relations between them, they are yet to find an enduring solutions towards sustaining and developing their economies. It has been established in the introduction section that the motivating factor for regionalism and economic integration in Africa is for the unity of African nations in order to achieve large markets for themselves, reap the benefits of economies of scale, and attain a coherent political cooperation. These benefits notwithstanding, regionalism and economic integration in Africa has often been plagued with several challenges. Some of these challenges as it affect Nigeria and Niger relation in particular and Africa nations in general include; lack of political will, the underdeveloped nature of infrastructure on the continent, security issues, and minimal intra-regional trade among others.

One of the major challenges before the African Union is the political will of the governments and peoples of Africa. This has always been a problem to effective trade and integration in most Regional Economic Commissions and manifests itself in the behavior of some countries to resist liberalization and move towards protectionist policies to protect trade. It would be recalled that


among the problems that prevented the defunct OAU from effective performance is lack of political will on the part of African leaders to translate regional plans into national policies and actions. As cited in Dayo (2002) Amoako opined that:

The lack of sustained political commitment to put in place agreed policies and plans has been one of Africa‘s major shortcoming, and in the context of the African Union, this is an issue that needs to be addressed (Dayo: 2002:99).

African leaders usually are quick to sign treaties establishing institutions for the achievement of specific objectives, but they do not always take the necessary steps to ensure that these institutions work effectively in the interest of the people. The implication of this is that, if African countries cannot abide by a consensus reached by themselves after discussions, then we may not achieve the unity necessary and needed to propel the African Union. Manifestation of this can be seen in the August 19, 2019 pronouncement by Nigeria government to close her land border. The government closed its border against its neighbours in a bid to stem rampant smuggling across the border, and perhaps the exportation of insurgency. The closure seems to have generated issues between Nigeria and her neighbours (including Niger republic) and to that extent been criticized by them. Their criticism of Nigeria policy was based on the existing Free Trade Agreement in the sub region and the continent at large (to which Nigeria is a signatory) which seeks to eliminate restrictions on trade among African countries. The AU African Continental Free Trade Area‘s objectives is to create a single continental market for goods and services and expand intra-African trade across the Regional Economic Communities and African continent by extension. Although, Article 26 of the Protocol on Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes permits states to take certain restrictive measures so as to ensure compliance with their own local laws and Article 27 of the same Protocol permits restriction on the basis of security but members are not expected to apply the measures arbitrarily to cause unjustifiable discrimination between state parties. The border closure, although justified (evidence has revealed a deleterious impact on not just local food production, but also the growth of cross-border transactions of legitimate businesses), was in defiance of both AU Constitutive Act and ECOWAS treaties on trade liberalization and freedom of movement. Amidst the foregoing scenario, how the AU hope to realize its integration agenda particularly as it affects Nigeria and Niger republic remains a serious challenge.

The underdeveloped nature of infrastructure on the continent also begs for solution; lack of adequate infrastructure by way of roads, energy, power, rail, telecommunications and other links for the facilitation of the free movement of goods, capital, services and persons, including the right of residence. The situation is caused by weak productive and industrial sectors in the two countries and the sub region at large due to poor infrastructural conditions. This contradicts the objective to promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies stipulated in Article 3(j) of the Union‘s Constitutive Act. The level of infrastructural development in Nigeria is not encouraging; an economy that runs on generating sets and ever increasing diesel prices obviously cannot compete within the sub regional market not to talk of the continent. In term of infrastructure, Nigeria appears to be clearly unprepared for the led protective AU Common Tariff and that of ECOWAS in the sub region which is one of the key pre-requisites for economic integration of the continent. Removing the tariff shield in the present high operating cost situation will stifle manufacturing operation in Nigeria. This situation is also applicable to Niger republic, thus complicating the integration process. Niger republic for example depends on Lagos for most containers heading to the country and due to the absence of a rail line,



containers take up to two weeks from Lagos to Niger and vice-versa by road. Free movement of people, capital, goods and other factors is imperative to the smooth functioning of regionalism and economic integration, as with integrated economies, people have to be able to move easily from one place (economy) to the other, with no structural impediments. A developed transport system is a sinequa-non for economies to operate efficiently, enhancing trade by minimizing cost and time of moving people and goods to where there are jobs and markets. The landlocked status of Niger republic, bureaucracy, difficult Customs arrangements, and poor transport infrastructure, among others, account for the country‘s high transportation costs. According to the 2021 report of African Development Bank, the transportation problems in Africa is said to result in lower intra-African trade and thereby posing a serious problem and almost consumes the integration dream in the continent.

However, the current development in the sub region and between the two countries gives hope. As reported in Daily Trust Abuja, February, 2021, a 2013 USAID baseline study on the LAKAJI (Lagos-Kano- Jibiya) corridor showed that it costs over $3000 and takes approximately 12.5 days to send a 20-foot container from Jibiya in northern Nigeria to Lagos in the southwest. Conversely, it costs nearly $5,000 and takes approximately 19.5 days to ship a 20 –foot container from Lagos to Jibiya. The high cost of transporting goods along the corridor is largely due to the lengthy clearance time and associated cost at the Lagos port. The overall cost and delivery times along the Lagos- Kano-Jibiya corridor are significantly greater than similar corridors in West Africa. The foregoing made the USAID to suggest the construction of rail network to link Lagos to Jibiya bearing in mind the huge economic activities along the LAKAJI corridor. The organization thus suggested the construction of a rail track linking Nigeria, a country with massive port activities, to the Niger republic, a landlocked country. Consequent up on this, the government of Nigeria has since begun the construction of the rail line. During his official state visit to Nigerian President at the presidential villa, Abuja, the Niger leader Mohammed Bazoum commended the Nigeria government for approving the sum of $1.96 billion rail project. The 284 kilometer rail project will connect Kano in Nigeria to Maradi in Niger republic. The project was believed to be crucial to rail development in Nigeria and in the West African sub-region. It was being executed by Mota-Engil Group, a multinational engineering, and construction company. The approval of the project was given at the federal executive council in September 2020 and began in February 2021. The project, with 15 stations along the corridor, is expected to boost socio-economic activities in Kano, Katsina and Jigawa states in Nigeria, as well as Maradi in Niger republic. Bazoum said that the project is an infrastructure that will integrate the economies of Nigeria and Niger. He said that he was in Abuja to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his efforts at ensuring that the project has taken off and hoped it will be sustained because the project will radically change the trading exchange between the two countries (The Premium Times 1st April 2022). It is hoped that when completed, the project would boost regional trade and end the plight of manufacturers and traders along the corridor by reducing freight cost from Lagos to other parts of the country.

Conflicts present another important challenge that is hindering regionalism and economic integration and development in Africa. Regionalism and economic integration can be attained in an environment of peaceful co-existence among and within countries in a given sub-region. It is very difficult for countries to be fully integrated when they still engage in conflicts. Currently, Nigeria and the Niger republic, and by extension, the sub-region is battling terrorism and internal security challenges due to activities of Boko Haram in North-Western Nigeria, Niger, and at the Cameroon border and banditry. The implication of these conflicts is that the affected countries will continue to


divert their scarce resources to the purchase of arms and ammunition, which can only bring further destruction, rather than focus on priority areas of social and economic development. These conflicts apart from fostering disunity also scare away investors and thus compound Africa‘s underdevelopment. The AU must intensify its effort in this regard in order to promote peace, security and stability on the continent as contained in Article 3 (f) of the constitutive Act. According to Obasanjo (2003) cited in (Raji 2014), the former Nigeria president, in his explanation of the crisis and problem of development in Africa opined that African continent remains the world‘s enduring development challenge, world‘s most highly indebted region, where poverty is endemic, pervasive and deep, where conflicts and socio-political crisis still remain a recurring feature, a region being ravaged by AIDS and tropical diseases. He concluded that the foregoing represents the feature of African society in spite of almost half a century of independence. The situation in Africa today is not too different from what was obtainable 19 years ago when the former president made his assertion. In fact, statistical evidences in contemporary African countries show that the situation is far worse today.

The National Bureau of Statistics has disclosed that 133 million Nigerians are multidimensionally poor. In the latest Multidimensional Poverty Index report launched in Abuja the federal capital territory of Nigeria, on the 17th November 2022, the NBS said that 63% of Nigerians were poor due to a lack of access to health, education, living standards, employment and security. The index is said to offer a multivariant form of poverty assessment, identifying deprivations across health, education, living standard, work and shocks. The CEO of the Bureau and the Statistician General of the Federation, Semiu Adeniran, said that, this was the first time the NBS, would conduct a standard multidimensional poverty survey in Nigeria. The survey was said to be the largest in its series with a sample size of over 56,610 people in 109 senatorial districts in the 36 states of Nigeria and was implemented in 2021 to 2022. The survey added a fourth dimension of work and shocks which make a difference with the global MPI (multidimensional poverty index) which uses three dimensions. (health, education and living standards). The 133 million poor Nigerians recorded by the NBS was said to have exceeded the World Bank‘s proportion for Nigeria. In a press release by the NBS on 17 November 2022 in Abuja titled: Nigeria Launches its most extensive National measures of multidimensional poverty. The survey was a collaborative effort between the NBS, the National Social Safety- Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO), the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children‘s Fund (UNICEF), and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI). As said earlier, the survey sampled over 56,000 households across the 36 states of the federation and FCT, and was conducted between November 2021 and February 2022. The National MPI is said to be 0.257, which indicate that poor people in Nigeria experience just over one- quarter of all possible deprivations. Over half of the Nigeria population are multidimensionally poor and cook with dung, wood or charcoal, rather than cleaner energy. High deprivations are also said to be apparent nationally in sanitation, time to health care, food insecurity, and housing. The report further indicated that 40.1% of people are poor according to the 2018/2019 National Monetary Poverty Line, and 63% are multidimensionally poor according to the National MPI 2022. Multidimensional poverty is said to be higher in rural areas, where 72% of people are poor, compared to 42% of people in urban areas (Punch online 18/11/2022).

In the case of Niger republic, the country is said to be one of the poorest countries in the world with population of about 24.21 million people. Over the years, the country‘s situation has only worsened as the humanitarian context grows more dire due to insecurity, hunger, the climate crisis, and COVID-19. About 3.8 million people are said to require humanitarian assistance, 42.9% in poverty,



earning less than $1.90 per day with 83% of the population living in rural areas and 20% could not meet basic daily food and nutrition needs, average life expectancy in the country is put at   62.4 years. Despite relative peace for years, the landlocked country of Niger is fighting a virtual war against poverty and hunger. Forced migration is said to have contributed to the high poverty levels especially since 82% of Nigeriens earn their income from farming and livestock; livelihoods easily lost when people are forced to relocate. In 2021, the United Nations rated Niger the least developed country in the world (closely followed by the Central African Republic, Chad, Burundi, and South Sudan). Currently, the World Bank considers the deteriorating security condition to be one of the three main causes of poverty in Niger. The face of poverty in the country is said to be overwhelmingly female, with girls and women representing an estimated 75% of Nigeriens living below the poverty line. Social inequalities between the roles and responsibilities of men and women in society fuel disparities that very quickly become economic hardships. All of these elements make the cycle of poverty even more difficult to break for millions of Nigeriens living on less than $1.90 per day (Concern Worldwide US Inc. 2022). What the foregoing statistics suggest is that previous efforts at developing Africa by its leaders, has achieved insignificant success.

Minimal intra-regional trade continues to be a challenge to regionalism and economic integration and development in Africa. Trade among countries in regional and economic groups is relevant to the development of the region. Intra-regional trade is said to contribute positively to the widening of the markets; has a high capacity of creating jobs and speedy investment and growth; and has the ability to position countries to take advantage of even greater trade with countries outside the region. In spite of these potential benefits, African countries have not made enough efforts to enhance intra-regional trade. Trade creation, trade diversion, and economies of scale form the basis of regionalism and economic integration among countries. However, the situation on the ground is that intra African trade is conducted at a very insignificant level. This has become an obstacle in view of the fact that many African countries are still being financed by their former colonial masters and conduct more trade with them than with each other. Daniel and Eric Evans (2014) justified this assertion in their study on Regionalism and Economic Integration in Africa: A Conceptual and Theoretical Perspective. The authors observed that the 2009 report of the African Development Bank shows that the continent has a substantial amount of oil and gas resource that, if exploited strategically, can help boost growth within it. As contained in their study, Africa is said to have approximately 124 billion barrels of oil reserve, an estimated 100 billion barrels awaiting discovery offshore, and some 509 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. The study further revealed that out of the 54 African countries, several of them are either oil producing or in the process of becoming oil producers. Keen interest in the oil and gas industry according to the study has attracted many multinational oil and gas corporations, all of which are almost of foreign origin and the oil produced is often not refined on the continent, but usually exported to advance nations unrefined and then re- imported refined at an extra cost for domestic usage. Such corporations include; ExxonMobil, Total, Royal Dutch Shell, Anadarko, BG Group, Statoil, Petrobras, GalpEnergia, Tullow Oil, Kosmos Energy, Ophir Energy, Cove Energy, Pancontinental Oil and Gas NL, and Premier Oil. Why are African companies not more involved in oil and gas exploration? Huge investment is said to be involved, and only a united Africa could create such opportunities for indigenous companies in the areas of oil exploration and refinement. The implication of this is that there will be huge movement of funds from Africa to other parts of the world and thus compounding the developmental problem of the continent.


Added to the above analysis is the fact that most countries produce mainly raw materials for which there is virtually no demand in other African countries. This deprives Africa of some revenue that it could use to develop, as more trade within Africa would imply more internally generated funds to support the integration process and development of the continent. The African Union is an attempt to end this situation by making trade within Africa easier, reducing bureaucratic obstacles. The idea is to first build regional blocs in West, Central, East, North and Southern Africa and then ultimately merge these into one big economy on the basis that bringing four or five groups together is easier than negotiating with 53 countries at the same time (The Guardian, July 13 and 14 2002). How the AU will achieve this objective remains a serious task. This is because of the similarities of the economies of state within the continent, which reduces the level of complementarity in trade commodities. Related to the foregoing is the proliferation of national currencies in Africa, which are strongly linked to monetary systems and institutions that were established by the former colonial masters. This creates the problems of payments arrangements and convertibility with consequent difficulties for interstate commercial transactions. It needs not be repeated that African states transact their business with the use of international currencies such as the Pound Sterling, the French Franc and the US Dollar and efforts at achieving common currency in the continent has not been fruitful. Thus, slowing down the pace at which African countries engaged in trade relations.

Conclusion and Recommendations

This paper has examined the factors hindering the effective integration and economic development of the two countries that need each other as close trading partners in Africa. Nigeria needs the support and cooperation of the republic of Niger especially with respect to the issue of good neighbourliness, general security and other areas of political and socio-economic needs. The creation of the Nigeria- Niger Joint Commission for Cooperation is to compliment the efforts of the existing sub regional and regional organizations and strengthen cooperation between the two countries towards their integration and development. As contained in Okechukwu (2018) the areas of developmental coverage of the commission include; transport, telecommunications network, trade, environmental management and promotion of livestock breeding, joint rural programs, energy, industry, health, management of aquatic resources, combating cultural enemies, security and border management among others. However, in spite of this long time economic relations between them, they are yet to find an enduring solutions towards sustaining and developing their economies. This has been blamed on many factors, some of which include: lack of political will, the underdeveloped nature of infrastructure in the west African sub region and Africa at large, security issues, and minimal intra-regional trade among others. Having made this intellectual discourse, it is very worthwhile to make the following recommendations:

·           There is need for strong political will and commitment by the leadership of the two countries and African leaders by extension to turn resolutions and consensus reached by themselves into national policies and actions if effective integration and development must be achieved.

·           A developed transport system is a sine–qua-non for economies to operate efficiently, enhancing trade by minimizing cost and time of transporting goods and services to where there are jobs and markets. Based on this measures have to be put in place to ensuring the sustenance of the ongoing development of the transport system so as to achieve effective intra-African trade.

·           Making lives better and enjoyable for Nigerians, Nigeriens and AU citizens by extension will depend to a very large extent on how the two countries and the entire AU member states are able to deal with internal security challenges such as Boko Haram, arms smuggling,



kidnappings terrorism and activities of bandits which threaten the political and economic stability of member states. Nigeria has taken a lead in this direction by funding the activities of the multi-national joint task force, currently maintaining security in the Lake Chad Basin against the terrorists. The operation must be sustained.

·           There is need for Nigeria and the Republic of Niger to improve and strengthen bilateral ties and develop structures necessary for an effective transit trade agreement in which Nigeria opens her trade corridor to Niger-bound merchandise and vice-versa. This is imperative because intra- regional trade has tremendously boosted the economies of other regional blocs like the European Union, North American Free Trade Agreement and the South American Economic Organization. Effective trade has no doubt remained a key factor in a successful regional integration and development.




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