Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What are the challenges to African Regional Integration?

From issues of governance to providing for its citizens, the region of Africa has seen many challenges.  As a result of these challenges, the International Community (US, EU, IMF and World Bank) has encouraged Africa to move down a particular trajectory.

This trajectory involves, among other things, trade liberalisation and developing an African wide regional trading bloc so that trade between countries in this continent could be increased. As Marcike Meyan argues, ‘regional integration would enable individual countries to do business and to increase attractiveness of their markets by, for example, achieving greater economies of scale or by collaborating on infrastructure projects’ (2008, 518). Inter-country infrastructure is one of the big challenges that Africa faces.

For example, transport links between countries in the region is not as good as it should be and this not only limits the trade between countries but also makes it more difficult for land locked countries to transport their goods to ports to be shipped to other parts of the globe.      
Another problem that the region of Africa faces is the diversity of cultures, background and languages. As Meyan points out ‘it is very difficult to imagine how this “spaghetti bowel” of different sub-regional commitments could be knotted into two regional integrated groupings comprising all of Southern and East African countries’ (2008, 525). It would be incorrect to presume that the countries in the continent as big as Africa would automatically be able to integrate, especially if there is not the political will to undertake such as a difficult process.
However, while Colonisation did not encourage regional integration, Richard Gibbs argues that, ‘colonisation created an extremely fragmented state system which, combined with economic and political marginality, has encouraged the formation of a large number of intra-state organisations and institutions’ (2009, 703).  The involvement of multiple imperial powers in the past failed to provide a solid foundation on which African Governments could build an effective region that benefited its people.    

This leads to another challenge that Africa faces. As the guest lecture pointed out was the lack of political will to sacrifice the national interest for the common good. As Gibbs states, ‘perhaps why regionalism was so notably unsuccessful in southern Africa is not because the states are weak but, on the country, because the sates governing those states may not want regionalism to succeed’ (2009, 719). There is also the failure of governments to sign regional treaties and amend domestic legislation.

The problems that face Africa are many and varied but with generational change, it is hoped that the region will see an improved standard of living.

List of References 

Richard Gibb. 2009. “Regional Integration and Africa's Development Trajectory: meta-theories, expectations and reality,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 4, pp. 701-721.

M. Mareike. 2008 “Economic Partnership Agreements: A Historic Step towards a Partnership of Equals?”, Development Policy Review, Vol. 26, No.5, pp. 515-528, September 2008.

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