Understand WAI in 5 Questions

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The West Africa Institute (WAI), - French: Institut de l’Afrique de l’Ouest; Portuguese: Instituto de Africa Ocidental), with its headquarters in Praia , the capital of Cabo Verde on Santiago, the biggest island of Cabo Verde -, is a research and training institute dedicated to regional integration and social transformations in West Africa. 

Who created WAI?

The West Africa Institute (WAI) was created jointly by UNESCO, ECOWAS, WAEMU, Government of Cabo Verde and the Ecobank Group, which are at the same time its promoters. Its creation was approved by the Summit of Heads of State of ECOWAS held in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) in December 2008 and by the Council of Ministers of WAEMU on 26 June, 2009, in Dakar (Senegal). In October 2009, at the session of the General Conference in Paris, France, UNESCO approved the establishment of the West Africa Institute (WAI) as a category II institute, under its auspices.

        Some important dates:

  • 2007: UNESCO/MOST Program on the theme: "United Nations and the challenges of regional integration in West Africa”.
  • 2008: The Summit of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, unanimously endorsed the creation of WAI.
  • 2008: The Government of Cabo Verde proposed to the Director -General of UNESCO the creation of WAI, with its Headquarters in Praia, Cape Verde.
  • 2009: At the 35th session, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted the Draft establishing WAI as Category II Institute under its auspices.
  • 2010: The Government of Cape Verde formally gave the creation of the West Africa Institute a legal backing - Decree-Law n º 22/2010  

What is the mission of WAI?

During the 15 research workshops organized by MOST ( Management of Social Transformation ) in the ECOWAS member states, the absence of a framework for continuing research and a platform for dialogue and exchanges between researchers, policy makers and actors on the ground, as well as the civil society, was seen as the " missing link " in the regional integration process. WAI was created to fill the gap between policy and research in the field of regional integration and social change, by bringing together different actors and stimulating knowledge-based sustainable decision-making underpinned by competent scientific research. The main mission of WAI is to promote knowledge-based research on regional integration in West Africa, to engage in regular public dialogue throughout West Africa, to form a new generation of elites interested in regional integration and to engage in strategic partnerships within and outside Africa.As a regional think tank, WAI is a service provider for actors and institutions of regional integration in West Africa, requiring analytical support to improve upon their performance and to ensure sustainability of results. WAI research is intended for regional and national public institutions, the private sector, civil society and the media. WAI also contributes to the consolidation of regional integration in West Africa through the organization of political and scientific dialogues between policy makers, regional institutions and members of the civil society. These scientific and political platforms give stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the results of current research and the main obstacles to regional integration in West Africa. In brief, WAI provides through research policy advice and recommendations, platforms for dialogue between scientists and practitioners, the capacity building for the new generation of regional elites to outstand the obstacles to the regional integration in West Africa. 

What are the main research areas of WAI?

The priority research areas of WAI include:

  • Historical and cultural bases of regional integration
  • Citizenship
  • Governance
  • Regional security
  • Economic challenges to market integration in West Africa
  • New Information and Communication Technologies (NTIC)
  • Education
  • The problem of shared resources (land, water, minerals, coastal and maritime security, and funding of NGOs in West Africa)
  • Migration

Comparing it to other similar institution, WAI is based on three pillars: WAI is the first research Institute in West Africa that focuses exclusively on regional integration. It is also the only institute which has complete intellectual autonomy and action vis-à-vis its developers. Finally, WAI is the only institute working in a participatory manner by opening debates that were previously monopolized by policymakers.

What are relevant results of WAI´s work so far?

WAI organizes scientific meetings and political dialogues one of which took place in Abidjan in 2012 on the theme "Regional integration: Contribution of research and strategy of Actors." The results will be published shortly. To strengthen the capacity of managers and those at the helm of the structures of regional integration in West Africa, WAI partnered the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) to organize a training seminar in Lomé in June 2013 on the theme "Challenges of Regional Integration in West Africa and in the World."

The first research papers of WAI have just been published under the series "WAI Critical Analysis and Actions strategies," which are available here. Other relevant documents are also in the process of being published. Since December 2013 West Africa Institute has extended the type of its publications with its first Newsletter.WAI has entered into research cooperation with the Center for European Integration Studies (ZEI) to undertake jointly intensive research on sustainable regional integration in West Africa and Europe by bringing together European and West African researchers in regular workshops. You will find WAI-ZEI recently published documents here. In addition, the "Regional Integration Observer" is published three times a year by the two institutes.

Who are the partners of WAI?

WAI key partners are the institute's founding organizations: UNESCO, ECOWAS, WAEMU, Government of Cabo Verde and ECOBANK. Going forward, WAI will engage in partnerships with similars institutions in Africa and Europe. Already WAI has begun to do with the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS), the Center for European Integration Studies (ZEI) from University of Bonn in Germany and the Council for Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). WAI benefits from a network of social science researchers and social scientists with close collaboration  with the national committees of MOST which is sponsored by UNESCO. WAI is a member of EARN (Europe-Africa Research Network). In 2010, WAI concluded a scientific partnership with the University of Coimbra, Portugal, on "Migration and Biographical Stories." A seminar during research results were presented at the Praia Institute of Social and Legal Sciences on September 5, 2013. The project ended in February 2014. Since 2013, WAI is also in partnership with OSIWAFor more information about WAI, visit www.wai-iao.ecowas.int