The idea of “West Africa” encompasses a medley of countries with diverse historical, political, and cultural features. However, their governance and development profiles are distinctly similar: the United Nations recognizes eleven of the fifteen members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as least developed countries. In this context, regional institutions are usually established to strengthen state capacity by providing resources to address national capacity deficits. Above all, they serve as systems of support that are supplementary to state institutions with distinct governance roles. However, regional institutions can—and should—play a second role: serving as alternatives to weak or fragile state institutions that are deficient in the supply of different public goods. By performing this second role, regional arrangements become international institutional bypasses.
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