The second chapter provides a theoretical framework for the thesis. The purpose is to theorize the political origins of economic change in the African state type and show how the EU trade system has prevented the political process of economic change. Borrowing from Douglass North’s LAO framework, the theoretical framework proposed here addresses the political origins of economic change in developing countries, drawing further on Jean-Franc̜ois Bayart’s theory of extraversion to show how the interaction between trade systems and political elites prevents the occurrence of the conditions required for economic change. The theoretical language of the LAO framework expresses political order in developing countries as the outcome of elite bargaining (North et al., 2009; 2011; 2013; 2015): bargaining that secures political order but also creates privileges for societal elites and precludes both institutional impersonality and political and economic competition (Gray, 2015). Such bargaining for political order rests on the achievement of a minimum level of economic performance; failure leads to the disintegration of political order and the dislodgement of ruling elites (Khan, 2010, 4; North et al., 2009, 59). Within this framework, the political origins of economic change are located in the attempt to create or adjust foundations for minimum economic performance when current performance is under threat (Doner et al., 2005). In successive EU trade systems, ruling elites in West Africa obtained external guarantees of current minimum economic performance, thereby precluding the political conditions for economic change. This is expressed in the theory of extraversion.
The third chapter is relatively brief and seeks to justify the thesis by demonstrating two key imperatives for economic change in West Africa: (1) the developmental imperative and (2) the anti-poverty imperative. The mandate of the study is to show how the interaction between the EU trade system and political elites’ strategies for survival prevented economic change, transformation or diversification. One may ask why this objective is valuable. First, diversification is necessary to promote economic development in the region. Given the qualitative difference between products exchanged in international trade/types of specialization, which is the basis of the new-trade theory (Romer, 1989; Krugman, 1992) and the theory of economic dualism (Lewis 1954), as well as all theories relating historical to economic development from Friedrich List through Joseph Schumpeter to the development economists of the 1950s/60s (see Reinert, 2007), the region currently specializes in the wrong types of economic activities (Whitefield et al., 2015). Second, it is necessary to diversify away from historical (colonial) products to avoid poverty caused by diminishing returns and a changing input-output ratio due to a reduction in production factors (Ravallion, 2016). For example, cocoa is the main export product of both Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire (introduced to both countries during the colonial era), but forestland is a production factor in cocoa farming (Ruf and Schroth, 2004, 112), and the exhaustion of forestland increases the need for other factors (e.g., labor), thereby harming the standard of living of cocoa farmers. Diversification, which has historically been implemented to escape mass poverty after reaching the point of diminishing returns, is currently prevented partly by the EU trade system.
After the purpose of the thesis has been justified in the third chapter, the fourth chapter addresses the EU-devised trade system from a historical perspective, providing a background for the trade system since the colonial era. The argument of chapter four is that the EEC trade system was conceived and structured to reform the colonial economic system in anticipation of decolonisation. But the EEC’s self-imposed duty/mandate to develop the ex-colonies in the closing days of the colonial system was simply a later version of the “civilising” mandate of the Berlin Conference (1884/5). The chapter demonstrates the transition from a civilising mission to a development mission during the Second World War and tracks the colonial use of this language up to the early days of the EEC. The chapter also provides a valuable context in which to study the first incarnation of the EEC trade system with the African ex-colonies, which was in every respect an extension of the French colonial trade system (Barnes, 1967, 9-10). Although the theoretical framework adopted in this study is centered on local politics, the neo-colonial nature of the trade system is also very important; the focus simply shifts to an analysis of the political realities within Africa.
The fifth chapter (the first of the empirical analysis) evaluates the first incarnation of the EEC trade system, the Yaoundé Convention (1961-1975). This chapter comprises a comparative study of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, extended to other associated and non-associated countries in West Africa. The specialisation and performance of West African countries are shown to diverge considerably according to their participation in the Yaoundé Convention. Côte d’Ivoire and the other associated countries were undisturbed by the commodity-price fluctuations of the 1960s, due to the extension of the market and price advantages of the late French colonial system under the Yaoundé Convention (Tuinder, 1978, 91). As it was not subject to systemic vulnerability and its political elites were not threatened, Côte d’Ivoire encountered less political crisis. Ghana and the other non-associated countries grew more slowly and reacted to the commodity crises in 1961, 1965 and 1971 by attempting to diversify into other production systems. The threat to political survival thus induced elites in the unassociated countries to diversify and attempt economic transformation to find new bases for state rule. At the end of the decade, the non-associated countries were much more diversified than their associated counterparts, due to the unreliability of their colonial products, but had grown much more slowly and experienced more political conflict. However, the unassociated countries (represented by Ghana) joined the trade system in 1975.
The sixth chapter assesses the impact of the next trade system, the Lomé Convention of 1975-2000. Lomé is shown to have diverged from the previous model, the Yaoundé Convention, but nevertheless to have interacted with political elites’ incentives for survival to produce a similar outcome: extraversion. As all of the West African countries joined the EEC trade system in 1975, the specialisation trajectories of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire converged in this period. The Lomé Convention continued to protect Côte d’Ivoire’s existing export systems (extended from the Yaoundé Convention and the late French colonial system), but encouraged Ghana to diversify into Ivorian protected products, and also to create new protected products – such as sugar – due to the inclusion of former British colonies in the trade system. This led the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and the other former French colonies to reallocate factors to the newly protected products. In this chapter, the following three aspects of the interaction between the Lomé Convention and ruling elites’ strategies for survival are addressed. (1) The failure of extraversion attempts (using the example of sugar). As new members joined the trade system in the Lomé Convention, the EU undertook to protect new products, creating an opening for ruling elites in old member states to allocate resources to the new products. This in turn led to resource misallocation and a crisis in Côte d’Ivoire. (2) The danger of extending production beyond the point of diminishing returns in products promoted by the Lomé trade system; this is demonstrated using the example of cocoa beans (the main export product in both case studies). (3) The convergence between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in their equally sub-optimal production systems, using the examples of pineapples, bananas and fish. In conclusion, the Lomé Convention directed the production system of West African countries into a chain of uncompetitive sectors with no realistic possibility of survival outside the protected market of the EEC.
The seventh chapter is centered on the current incarnation of the trade system: the Cotonou Agreement or EPAs. EPAs are free-trade systems between the EU and the ex-colonies. When the EPAs were introduced, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire depended on EU trade advantages for more than 50 percent of their exports. Entire sectors, such as the banana, pineapple, processed cocoa and tuna sectors, were profitable only within the protected zone of the EU, and there is evidence to suggest that these sectors would have ceased to exist without the EU’s trade advantages. In terms of reciprocity, the EPAs represented a reversal of the Yaoundé Convention, which was an extension of the colonial economic system and a divergence from the non-reciprocal Lomé trade system. The EU used the bait of the continuation of trade advantages and market preferences to promote the EPA by undertaking to remove trade and market advantages (which are the basis of several sectors in several West African countries) from countries that refused to sign the free-trade system. The EPA was initially rejected by civil-society institutions and intellectuals, mostly due to its resemblance to the structural-adjustment program of the 1980s (in the feature of trade liberalisation, for example). To prevent crisis in the event of the EU’s withdrawing its trade advantages, many ruling elites accepted the EPAs. However, countries such as Nigeria, whose political elites depended not on the continuation of the EU’s trade advantages but on crude oil, initially refused to sign the agreement, unlike Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
The seventh chapter is divided into two parts, addressing the establishment of the EPAs and their consequences for specialisation in West African countries, respectively. Several arguments are advanced. First, I contend that ruling elites in West Africa signed EPAs simply to protect existing market advantages. Second, I show that the market advantages that the EPA was signed to protect are currently shrinking due to unrelated developments in the EU market; for example, new FTAs with more competent suppliers of bananas, pineapples and fish are displacing West African exports to the EU and the WTO’s liberalisation commitment/post-2008 liberalisation in the EU (though this is a good thing according to my theory, because ruling elites will be forced to reallocate factors into other sectors). Third, I argue that the EPAs, which amount to a 75 percent liberalisation of trade from the EU, prevent diversification by reducing policy space and restructuring the West African region according to the EPA exclusion list (i.e. West African countries are now pursuing similar development programs on the basis of the common exclusion list). In sum, I argue that the EPA represents progress compared with the Yaoundé and Lomé trade systems because it removes the opportunity for extraversion (for example, the EU abolished the use of price support in the EPA in favor of tariff advantages – which are currently shrinking). There is a good chance that West African ruling elites will not ratify the EPA (Nigeria refused to ratify the trade system two years after its signage).
The concluding chapter brings everything together. In essence, the EEC trade system was discursively created to perpetuate colonialism in a different form (Chapter Four), although this motivation was obscured by the language of development (Langan, 2016, 27). The current thesis, however, diverges from such considerations to investigate the interaction between the trade system and ruling elites’ strategies for survival. The concluding (discussion) chapter opens with my theoretical contribution to the literature on the political survival of ruling elites. It then summarises and offers an inventory of the empirical findings (reported in Chapters Five, Six and Seven). The implications and contributions of the study are discussed; the latter covering both its contribution to the literature on the EU-Africa trade system and its contribution to development studies more broadly. Gaps in the existing literature and directions for further research are identified at the very end of the concluding chapter.