What do you know about the regional integration in Africa and its economic and trade performance?
What is the state of intraregional trade in Africa?
What is considered to be the drivers of integration in Africa?
What do you know about Regional Economic Communities in Africa (RECs)?
While watching, pay attention to the following words and expressions in context. Use them in your answers to the questions below and discussion.
give up sovereignty
maximize the realisation
meet the requirements
build/ increase capacity
enhance economic reforms
What are the problematic factors of doing business in Africa?
Discuss the geo-political and economic configuration of Africa.
Making sense of regional integration in Africa
- read the passage
- focus on key terms
- summarize the information
- elaborate on the concepts
Regional Economic Communities
The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are regional groupings of African states and are the pillars of the AU. All were formed prior to the launch of the AU and have developed individually and have differing roles and structures.
The purpose of the RECs is to facilitate regional economic integration between members of the individual regions and through the wider African Economic Community (AEC), which was established under the Abuja Treaty (1991). This Treaty, which has been in operation since 1994, ultimately seeks to create an African Common Market using the RECs as building blocks.
The AU recognises eight RECs namely:
• Community of Sahel–Saharan States (CEN–SAD)
• Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)
There are six other RECs, and several other regional bodies. These serve as the building blocks towards the African Economic Community. Although some are more effective than others—the AMU and CEN-SAD have been somewhat dormant in recent years—in July 2006, the AU decided to stick to these eight with a moratorium on recognizing any more RECs.
But a plethora of regional bodies and agencies exists beyond these RECs, carrying out functions that overlap and often cut across them. SADC, ECOWAS and ECCAS all contain a smaller but more historically rooted sub-region in the form of SACU, UEMOA and CEMAC, respectively. These are the Southern African Customs Union, l’Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine, and Commission Économique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale respectively.
Plus there are a range of river basin organizations, sub-regional organizations and partnerships as well as regional peace and security arrangements. As a result, the average African country belongs to no less than eight different regional bodies. The DRC is member of at least 14 different regional entities—15 if their request to join the EAC is accepted. This has resulted in the (in)famous metaphor of an African “spaghetti bowl” of regional institutions, often with limited organizational capabilities and weak supranational authority.
To some, such as the EU, this suggests a need for rationalization of regional memberships. Rather it may reflect a real need for multiple regional platforms to address the cross-border and regional challenges African countries face. For those countries, joining different regional fora is a rational decision—with a relatively limited cost given the reliance of most regional organizations on external finance—even if the rationale is not always clear to outsiders. That raises a challenge to the relatively limited scope of the AU summit.
Member states are the ultimate drivers of regional integration and cooperation. A shift in focus towards regional politics and their relation to national interests can shed light on why there are so many regional bodies, and why some work better than others.
History and politics matter
Regional cooperation and integration is an outcome of historical path dependencies, negotiation, bargaining and power games between and within states and between states and different regional organizations. Discussions about rationalization to avoid the overlap in membership and duplication of efforts often ignore why countries set up regional organizations in the first place. For instance, while members of UEMOA are also in ECOWAS, the two groupings have very different origins and levels of integration. ECOWAS is a customs union with both anglophone and francophone countries, while UEMOA is a monetary union of the West African francophone states. Consequently, the internal power balance and member state allegiances vary a lot. Nigeria dominates ECOWAS, accounting for 70% of its economy, giving it great ability to influence regional dynamics by promoting or blocking the bloc’s efforts. On the other hand, UEMOA states tend to speak with one voice in ECOWAS negotiations. While it aims for a full economic community with a common currency, ECOWAS has no mechanisms to ensure the primacy of its policies over those of UEMOA, often leading to tensions.
While they have inter-institutional meetings to improve convergence, UEMOA countries would have little to gain were the group subsumed into ECOWAS. Côte d’Ivoire for example would simply become a small fish in a bigger pond. Moreover, a common currency based on Nigeria’s oil-driven economy would mean importing petro-volatility, a 180 degree turn from the Euro-bound stability of the CFA franc. At the same time, it is also recognized that UEMOA needs ECOWAS for further economic integration, and this cannot be done without or against Nigeria. ECOWAS has also made progress on the security front as well as nudging its members towards a democratic path. Hesitant positions within UEMOA are thus more a reflection of their balancing act between competing choices.
Relevance of functional organisations
Although countries are members of multiple regional organizations, there are often frustrations with how these actually function, due to slow implementation or ineffectiveness. Political traction at the regional level is, to a large extent, determined by national interests. Moreover, the role of regional hegemons or swing states such as Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia can also be important in solving (or perpetuating) regional problems. While RECs tend to have comprehensive mandates including areas such as agriculture, industrial policy, trade facilitation, peace and security and so on, this does not automatically imply leadership, or major influence over decisions by member states in these areas. In many regions, cooperation has made more progress in some areas, notably conflict prevention and resource management, partly out of a sense of urgency, than in others such as trade, where there are lots of agreements but implementation is trickier.
Member states work with, or through, organizations that best represent their interests (however those might be defined). This includes (sub)regional bodies that fall outside the purview of the eight RECs or the other regional economic groups. For instance, transboundary water governance is exercised through river basin organizations. These are intergovernmental bodies with the single purpose of managing freshwater resources between countries that are part of a watershed. West Africa is home to several of these functional organizations. Among these is the OMVS (Organisation pour la mise en valeur du Fleuve Sénégal) which has joint ownership of key hydrological infrastructure with equitable distribution of costs and benefits and is by many considered a model for the management of transboundary resources. The wider REC (ECOWAS) has less influence over national positions on water and energy even if it has a regional water policy.
There is also the Lake Chad Basin Commission. While ostensibly created for joint management of water resources, it hosts the Multinational Joint Task Force, a joint military effort to combat the threat of terrorism posed by Boko Haram under the leadership of Nigeria. With member states split between ECOWAS and ECCAS, the Commission presents a useful cross-REC platform to discuss the issues of porous borders and security threats. Though outside the official framework of the eight RECs that are the preferred implementing agents of the African Union Peace and Security Architecture, this platform aims to address a specific regional problem or need.
Given the complex dynamics at play, it is important to accept the political economy—actors, interests and incentives—of regional integration, and the processes that shape national priorities, bargaining power and implementation. Pragmatism and improvised institutional arrangements may at times provide better solutions to regional problems than a normative position of what regional integration “ought to be,” i.e. an understandable form of subsidiarity, by working through the RECs in coordination with the AU.
It would be important to integrate broader regional dynamics into the discussions. Thematically focused continental meetings and regional learning may prove a more effective way to dig into the spaghetti bowl.
MATCH THE TERM WITH ITS DEFINITION:
|crossing the border between two or more countries or areas and affecting both or all areas
|loyalty or devotion to some person, group, cause, or the like, esp. loyalty of citizens to their government
|above the authority or scope of any one national government, as a project or policy
|characterized by equity or fairness; just and right; fair; reasonable
|a cooperative relationship between people or groups who agree to share responsibility for achieving some specific goal
|a fundamental principle or practice
|the fundamental or basic reason or reasons serving to account for smth
|extent, limit or range of view, outlook
|power; ability; the quality of being capable
|a leading or paramount power
RESTORE THE SENTENCE BY FILLING IN THE KEY TERM:
|1. The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are regional groupings of African states and are the …………….. of the AU.
|2. Plus there are a range of river basin organizations, sub-regional organizations and …………….. as well as regional peace and security arrangements.
|3. This has resulted in the (in)famous metaphor of an African “spaghetti bowl” of regional institutions, often with limited organizational …………….. and weak …………….. authority.
|4. For those countries, joining different regional fora is a rational decision—with a relatively limited cost given the reliance of most regional organizations on external finance—even if the …………….. is not always clear to outsiders.
|5. That raises a challenge to the relatively limited …………….. of the AU summit.
|6. Consequently, the internal power balance and member state …………….. vary a lot.
|7. Moreover, the role of regional …………….. or swing states such as Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia can also be important in solving (or perpetuating) regional problems.
|8. Among these is the OMVS (Organisation pour la mise en valeur du Fleuve Sénégal) which has joint ownership of key hydrological infrastructure with …………….. distribution of costs and benefits and is by many considered a model for the management of …………….. resources.
COMPLETE THE PASSAGE WITH THE WORDS FROM THE BOX:
Current discourse in regional integration in the tripartite region, comprising 26 countries who are members of either/or SADC, COMESA and the EAC focuses on four 1) …………….. themes. These are trade policy, trade facilitation, infrastructure development and economic competitiveness.
Trade policy is designed to 2) …………… the prospects for enlarging a single market for the trade in goods and services and the movement of people. This is supported by improved trade 3) …………… measures and infrastructure development that lowers the costs of trade, transport, energy and ICT services, which in turn enhances the region’s economic 4) …………… by inter alia expanding its productive base, notably with respect to the potential to increase intra-Africa trade. In reality, the interplay of these issues results in a range of complex political 5) …………… that provide the context within which regional integration occurs. Whilst there is no single conceptual 6) …………… for political economy analysis the OECD-DAC (2005) definition is useful is capturing some of the main elements:
‘Political economy analysis is concerned with the interaction of political and economic processes in a society: the 7) …………… of power and wealth between different groups and individuals, and the processes that create, 8) …………… and transform these relationships over time.’
With respect to the political economy of regional integration Asche (2012) has argued that there is only 9) …………… integration of goods, services and factor markets in Africa. However, many development partners argue for deep integration, that is, near complete liberalisation of goods and factor markets, before African industry can become competitive enough to stand on its own in this liberalised environment. As a result, African producers have been left with few opportunities to move up the value-chain, both globally and regionally. As a result, mutual gains are not obvious while 10) …………… for some national interest groups are and mostly in a single country where advantages are already clustered.
Two visions arise on how to better advance regional economic integration 1) in/ within Africa (and the tripartite region):
- The first is that 2) envisioned / envisaged by market-liberal trade economists who argue for the pursuit of light integration, which focuses on better infrastructure, an improved business environment and the development of ‘light institutions’ to facilitate regional integration; and,
- The second is that envisioned by structuralists who 3) admit/ acknowledge that effective industrial policy needs the larger regional market to work, but assert that without a better spatial distribution of new industries, a protected space with heavy institutions is pointless.
The challenges of bringing these two visions together is captured by Asche who concludes that ‘reconciling… the paradigms of regional economic integration and of industrial policy can help… support the 4) acelleration/ acceleration of industrial 5) development, / development which otherwise hardly occurs in Sub-Saharan Africa, 6) despite / due to sustained overall economic growth’.
The reconciliation of these two approaches in political economy analysis would go some way to improving the incentives for regional integration in Africa (and the tripartite region). The configuration of different large-scale projects of national (in Mozambique and Malawi) and regional scope (other countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, DRC and Burundi) could address the challenges of the 3D’s in regional integration in Africa (and the tripartite region), namely, those of Division, Distance and Density, defined as follows:
- Division refers to the 54 countries in Africa, many of whom have small economies that are also land-locked, and 7) therefore/ thereby isolated;
- Distance refers to the physical distances of travelling in Africa and the time delays encountered due to inefficient borders and poor infrastructure; and,
- Density refers to the narrow economic base of many economies in Africa characterised by overdependence 8) on/ from primary commodity exports with weakly developed economies of scale and agglomeration resulting in poorly 9) developed/ developing national economies.
Howether, for the time being, the projects will require ‘pioneer investors’, 10) who/ which have the support of the government behind them, as the risks associated with these kinds of projects, which have not been developed yet, are largely unknown.