Regional Integration in West Africa: Exploring the Option of Leveraging Workforce Diversity in the Academia and University System

Regional Integration in West Africa: Exploring the Option of Leveraging Workforce Diversity in the Academia and University System

Ikeanyibe Okechukwu Marcellus (University of Nigeria, Nigeria) and Ezeibe Chukwuebuka Christian (University of Nigeria, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1812-1.ch001
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Since its establishment in 1975, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has faced the task of regional integration and cooperation in West Africa mainly through economic policies and treaties, and has substantially failed to achieve the desired goals. The sub-region is probably one of the most outstanding regional enclaves of human diversity in the world. However, ethnicity and other differences remain critical phenomena of politics and life in the sub-region. More often than not, these differences are exploited for negative purposes rather than leveraging them for the objectives of cooperation, integration, and development. The university system and its academic membership offer an opportunity for harnessing some of the diversity in the region for more fruitful integration and development. This chapter examines this expected role of academia and the university system towards leveraging human resource diversity for improved cooperation, integration, and development in West Africa.
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The challenge of regional integration remains the primary objective of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) since its formation in 1975. The academia is one group that has the propensity to participate in policy making in most countries especially in Africa where a distinctive political class cannot be distinguished from other power centers. A good number of members of the academia find their way to appointments in governments; they act as resource persons at various levels and they produce a large chunk of personnel for both the government and the private sector. In terms of diversity, they possess the various differences that can be found among the rest of the population in the sub-region (ethnicity, language, sex, age, educational qualifications, temperaments, etc.). Above all, the nature of their engagement as researchers makes them most available to work together in various exchange programs. The academia and by extension the university system, therefore, present a unique opportunity that can easily be used to leverage diversity, build peace, and champion programs of regional cooperation and integration in West Africa. Despite the existing diversity in the region, the academia, and the university system has the high potency of bringing diverse human resources to work together in the West African Universities.

The general objective of this research work is to examine how the academia and the university system can be maximized as an option for leveraging human resource diversity for improved cooperation, integration and development of the sub-region. The specific objectives pursued in the chapter include, but were not limited to the following:

  • discussing strategies for enhancing organizational culture and climate that is more diverse ethnically, culturally, linguistically, intellectually, creatively, etc. within the university system in the West Africa universities;

  • exploring avenues of harnessing the diversity evident among the academia in the sub-region and leveraging this through various university exchange programs towards better integration of the sub-region, and

  • advocating for and suggesting policies and practices that support inter-university exchanges and research cooperation among the academia of West Africa, the rest of Africa, and the world.

This research was conducted using documentary analysis as well as discourse analysis approaches. Relevant portions of documents like ECOWAS treaty and protocols were analyzed in relation to promoting cooperation in the area of study. The invaluable gains of university exchanges and research cooperation in other parts of the world and the emerging trend of leveraging workforce diversity were highlighted.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ethnicity: Differences in human groups rooted on such factors like, race, tribe, language, culture, and religion.

Integration: Attempt to associate or relate; establishing joint institutional mechanisms; implies a degree of shared sovereignty, which may be exercised by those joint institutional mechanisms distinguishable from those of individual countries in the region; aims to establish common markets, army, education system, employment etc.

Networking: Working together among the academia from various universities and countries. It encourages the pooling of individual efforts, talents, and aptitudes and also offers environmental opportunities for interaction and experience.

Cooperation: Ad hoc or temporary programs embarked on by various countries in the West African sub-region for the mutual benefit of all; separateness of countries is recognized.

Collaboration: Working together or joining efforts in pursuing a goal. It includes all opportunities for pursuing common education programs and projects among the universities, such as embarking on common research project, exchanging external examiners, providing opportunities for sabbatical leave for academics from other universities etc.

Academia: Faculty members of a university system that engage in teaching and research.

Diversity Leverage: Recognizing and appreciating the worth of differences that exist among people. In this chapter, differences include ethnicity, nationality, talents, indigenous knowledge etc; essence is that such differences may constitute significant uniqueness and excellence in attributes, skills and talents which human beings possess.

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