Looking like a regional organization? The European model of regional integration and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU)

2019-04-11T08:23:37Z (GMT) by Giulia Piccolino
Of all African regional organizations, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) is the one that has most explicitly followed the model of the European Union (EU), emulating key EU institutions and practices. WAEMU’s mimicry of the EU is puzzling, considering the economic, political and geographical differences between the European and the West African regional context. This article argues that, in order to understand WAEMU’s trajectory, it is necessary to look at two interrelated factors: on the one hand, WAEMU's history of colonial legacies and post-colonial dependence; on the other, WAEMU's drive to mimic institutions seen as embodying standards of modernity and legitimacy. WAEMU’s isomorphism has been an outcome of external pressures, but also a response to uncertainty and a result of professionalization. Institutional isomorphism has had a mixed impact on the effectiveness of the organization, helping it to sustain its legitimacy but also stifling endogenous development.