Foreign interference is hampering full integration of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a diplomat has said here.
Addressing senior army officers at Zimbabwe Staff College in Harare on Wednesday, Nigerian ambassador to Zimbabwe Kunle Adeyanju said the bloc has made considerable achievements in its more than 30 years of existence but full potential could not be realized due to meddling by some foreign powers, New Ziana reported on Thursday.
"Interference from quarters outside Africa tends to act as clogs in the wheel of integration," he said.
This is characterized by the desire by the former colonial masters to maintain political, economic, military and socio- cultural dominance over their erstwhile colonies, thereby stultifying regional progress.
Due to colonization, Adeyanju said language barriers are also "a limiting factor" to regional integration.
The ambassador added that within ECOWAS, some countries classify themselves as Francophone thus presenting problems for full integration.
Other challenges facing ECOWAS, the ambassador said, includes lack of political will to adequately implement decisions and protocols ratified by member states, weakness of the economies of member states which are mainly agriculture based, insufficient awareness campaigns on ECOWAS activities and the absence of reliable infrastructure.
The ambassador is, however, optimistic that ECOWAS would find a lasting solution to the problems.
"Though burdened by a plethora of problems, which have tended to hamper its majestic growth towards its desire goal of full economic integration, there is optimism that progress will be made in that direction no matter how slow it may seem," he said.
Member countries are also making concerted efforts to solve problems hindering regional integration while the ongoing consolidation of trade blocs around the world is in ECOWAS's favour, he said.
ECOWAS was established in May 1975 and its members include Nigeria, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Senegal, Niger, Mali and Sierra Leone.