Integration is a phenomenon that has been gaining ground the world over. It can be seen in the Americas in the forms of a customs unions like MERCOSUR (South America) or a free trade area like NAFTA (North America), a common market in Europe with the EU, and regional cooperation in Asia with ASEAN. It comes as no surprise therefore that Africa would be on the verge of the development of an African Union (AU) with gross aims to be a common market similar to the EU. The major building blocks for this union are the regional integration groups that have been established throughout the continent.

West Africa has been one of the more successful regional integration blocks of Africa. Although there are several bilateral agreements, most currently fit under the regional cooperation title with aims at a common market. This study will explore how and why regional integration is occurring in West Africa, what is happening now, and what its future implications are. It will first cover the impact history has had on current integration efforts in West Africa. The paper will then move from historical efforts to modern integration schemes and discuss future integration plans of the region. It will also discuss specifically what three West African nations; Mali, Benin, and Senegal, have to lose and gain from integration. Finally, the focus will move out from West Africa to visualize the relationships it has to other international organizations. It will discuss West Africa’s relationships with the EU, the AU, the WTO, and the UN.

Discussing West African integration in this manner will paint a picture of the integration in the region in terms of where it’s been, where it is currently, where it’s going and its link to the international community. This is an important picture to study because it impacts the international community so greatly. A united West Africa creates a much more stable atmosphere, which in turn creates an attractive business environment for the future. The West Africa of today, with the help of regional integration, could dramatically change the future of this area and may someday become a global power to be reckoned with.