In Summary

  • Due to a variety of constraints, only a few of Africa’s integration arrangements have yielded significant benefits to their members.

Although a number of leaders called for the integration of Africa soon after independence, it was only in the 1970s /1980s that steps were taken to relaunch or establish economic integration institutions.
The expressed interest and continuing political rhetoric in support of regional integration has however, not been matched by political will and systematic actions.

Regional integration remains an important economic and political goal in Africa. It is appropriate to re-examine the constraints faced and to consider actions that would promote an effective and rationalised integration structure. It is with this intent that the regional leaders ought to summarise the rationale and benefits of integration and review the less than satisfactory record of regional integration including the general and specific constraints that account for the unsatisfactory performance, then focus on some of the benefits including;
Member countries presenting themselves as a united and credible group in international trade negotiations and at other multilateral forums.

An integration framework would enhance the potential for sub –regional specialisation and cooperation in a variety of economic and social spheres. Programmes like combating corruption may also be jointly undertaken and coordinated within a sub – regional set up, controlling diseases, countering the operation of crime syndicates, etc.
With an effective integration especially EAC, national-level reforms and other economic policies may gain more credibility if closely coordinated and harmonised with neighbouring countries. Reforms may be more securely “locked-in” to a sub-regional framework which can also shield policy makers from domestic pressure groups seeking to dilute or reverse such reforms. Conversely, some reforms can have negative spillovers if the timing and content of such reforms are uncoordinated.

It would enhance the nurturing of new and fragile democracies; promote stability and management of conflict and development of joint security arrangements against external threats. Integration within a sub-region may minimise the potential for hostilities between neighbouring countries. Realisation of some or all of the foregoing benefits and many more is a motivating factor for countries to positively embrace regional integration schemes. Unfortunately, due to a variety of constraints, only a few of Africa’s integration arrangements have yielded significant benefits to their members.
Isabella Bwiire,
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative .