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Rethinking the (European) Foundations of Sub-Saharan African Regional Economic Integration: A Political Economy Essay


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  • Peter Draper


Support for regional economic integration in Africa runs high amongst the continent’s international development partners and African elites. However, its expression in European forms of economic integration is not appropriate to regional capacities and in some cases may do more harm than good. This lacuna is exacerbated by technical and theoretical analyses rooted either in economics or international relations literatures. This paper sets out to reconceptualise the foundations of African economic integration through reviewing key debates within each literature and comparing the results across disciplinary boundaries. Overall, I conclude that a much more limited approach is required, one that prioritises trade facilitation and regulatory cooperation in areas related primarily to the conduct of business; underpinned by a security regime emphasising the good governance agenda at the domestic level. Care should be taken to design the ensuing schemes in such a way as to avoid contributing to major implementation and capacity challenges in establishing viable and legitimate states. In doing so, the presence of regional leaders with relatively deep pockets– South Africa in the Southern African case – points to the imperative of building such limited regional economic arrangements around key states. Le soutien à l’intégration économique régionale en Afrique est fort au sein des partenaires au développement du continent et des élites africaines. Cependant, une intégration régionale à l’Européenne ne correspond pas aux capacités régionales, et dans certains cas, pourrait faire plus de mal que de bien. Cette lacune est exacerbée par les analyses techniques et théoriques basées sur les littératures de l’économie et des relations internationales. Cet article vise à reconceptualiser les fondations de l’intégration économique africaine en passant en revue les principaux débats au sein de chaque littérature, et en comparant les résultats de manière pluridisciplinaire. Globalement, nous concluons qu’une approche bien plus limitée est requise : mettre l’accent sur la facilitation du commerce et la coopération en matière de régulation dans des domaines relevant en premier lieu des affaires, dans le cadre d’un régime de sécurité qui renforce la bonne gouvernance au niveau national. Une attention particulière devrait être portée à la conception des programmes, de telle sorte qu’ils n’aggravent pas les problèmes de capacité et de mise en oeuvre qu’on rencontre dans l’édification d’Etats viables et légitimes. Ce faisant, la présence de leaders régionaux au poids économique important – l’Afrique du Sud dans le cas de l’Afrique australe – indique l’impératif d’une construction de ces accords économiques régionaux autour d’Etats stratégiques.

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Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Development Centre Working Papers with number 293.

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Date of creation: 25 Oct 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:oec:devaaa:293-en

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Keywords: economic integration; integration; international trade associations; organisations du commerce international; intégration; intégration économique;

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Cited by:
  1. Draper, Peter & Freytag, Andreas & Doyaili, Sarah Al, 2013. "Why should Sub-Saharan Africa care about the Doha Development Round?," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy, vol. 7(19), pages 1-26.
  2. Nora Dudwick & Radhika Srinivasan, 2013. "Creating Jobs in Africa's Fragile States : Are Value Chains an Answer?," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 15807.


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