African integration

Thursday, July 26, 2018

From the time of independence, there have been failed attempts to industrialise efficiently using import-substitution, which gave rise to the notion of regional integration as a means to facilitate structural transformation in Africa. As a result, African countries have embraced regional integration as an important component of their development strategies primarily driven by the economic rational of overcoming the constraint of small and fractioned economies working in isolation.

Several pan-African organisations have successively been working towards deepening economic, social and political cooperation and integration in Africa. A brief overview of regional integration proceedings on the continent is given below.

 A number of colonial cross-border arrangements have continued to exist post-independence and serve the regional integration agenda thus far. Prime examples are related to the previous African Financial Community (CFA) zone, comprising the West African CFA franc and the Central African CFA franc. The West African CFA franc was ultimately integrated to the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) in the territory of ECOWAS, while the Central African CFA franc is set to join the envisioned Economic and Monetary Union of Central Africa (CEMAC) in the ECCAS region. Likewise in Southern Africa, the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) with its associated monetary union – the Common Monetary Area – is set to be integrated to the SADC constituency.

Various pan-African organisations are, through different mechanisms, promoting sustainable economic growth and development, where the key component of regional integration is present in their workings. ECA was established by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in 1958 as one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations that, together with partners and member States, consecutively work towards sustainable development in Africa. ECA focuses on providing technical assistance by undertaking research and policy analysis to strengthen the capacity of institutions driving the regional integration agenda, including the African Union, regional economic communities and member States.

Moreover, a key priority of ECA has been to target Africa’s development challenges, particularly in the context of poverty eradication, to ensure sustainable growth and good governance on the continent and thus promote international cooperation for Africa’s development. In this regard, ECA had, in the 1960s, recommended the creation of subregional groupings in Africa to serve that purpose. Around the same time, the Heads of State and Government of 30 of the 32 independent African nations gathered to establish the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) at the Conference of Independent African States on 25 May 1963.

Apart from the liberalisation efforts of colonisation and apartheid, the main objectives of OAU were: to promote unity and solidarity among African States; to organize and strengthen cooperation for development on the continent; to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its member States; and to encourage international cooperation as outlined by the United Nations.

Parallel to the creation of OAU was the establishment of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB). It was formed after an agreement signed by 23 founding member States on 14 August 1963 in Khartoum, Sudan. The Group includes two other entities, with AfDB as the parent institution – the African Development Fund, which was established on 29 November 1972 by AfDB and 13 non-African countries; and the Nigeria Trust Fund, which was set up in 1976 by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The AfDB Group, as a financial institution, was created as a response to a need for deeper cooperation in investments of public and private capital in projects that are likely to contribute to the economic and social development of the continent. The main objectives of the Group have been to mobilise and allocate resources for investments in member States, and provide policy advice and technical assistance that supports the development efforts on the continent.

Author: A Guest Editorial