Although the role of organized business in regional economic integration is well documented, extant scholarship portrays them as mere legitimizers and partners of regional policy. This neat categorization fails to capture the complicated, ‘multiscalarity’ of business and overall civil society's role in regional governance. Drawing insights from social constructivism and empirical evidence from fieldwork conducted in 2012 and 2013 on the interactions between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and region-wide business associations and advocacy networks since the early 1990s, this article shows that although African business groups are relatively new actors at the regional stage, their impact on regional governance is substantial. This is not only in terms of getting governments to adopt particular policies or the ability to hold the state accountable, as functional institutionalists might argue, but also in terms of the regional socialization effects, namely the willingness and ability to frame issues that influence the choices of political decision-makers. Business regional governance roles also straddle competing conventional roles, and sometimes counter the neoliberal vision of regional integration, even among those that owe their emergence to regional organizations. The study also challenges the pervasive view of business actors (especially in Africa) as simply profit-seekers by highlighting the ways business actors have deployed and acted on principled beliefs about regional identity collectively or individually to forge denser and relatively effective policy coalitions that signal unfolding changes in the direction of regional policy in Africa.
- civil society
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Economics and Econometrics
- Political Science and International Relations