Monday, December 06, 2010

*Monday Analysis*: Ivory Coast crisis Should be Wake-up Call for SADC and ECOWAS

The centrality of former South African Thabo Mbeki to the resolution of the crisis of Cote d'Ivoire resonates with my oft-repeated theme of relying on putative imperatives ( assigned expressly or otherwise onto the regional economic communities(RECs) of the African Economic Community(AEC).

I specifically use "imperative", because in 2009, both Zimbabwe and Madagascar--as SADC countries--were confronted with the problem of having "two" [disputed] presidents, but were eventually able to resolve the permafrost with power-sharing. Imperfections notwithstanding, it is clear in my view that SADC should use the Ivory Coast crisis as an opportunity to build experience on governance issues.

Although Mbeki's appointment as African Union envoy has less to do with my thesis and a great deal to do with his prior involvement in Ivory Coast, I believe strongly that history is on SADC's side in the fashioning of an imperative, which will put it at par with a REC like ECOWAS on peace and security.

Let me leave you with how I put the case of "imperatives" in an interview by Ghana's Radio Gold in June 2007, when I was asked about the possibility of a Union government of Africa:

First, there needs to be identification of imperatives of each region. Simply put, what is unique ab7out[sic] a particular region that that region can capitalise on to bring to bear in the conception of an AU government? So, we can say, for example, that ECOWAS's sub-regional imperative is that of conflict prevention/resolution /management, given its experience with Liberia/Sierra Leone/and the instrumentality of ECOMOG. SADC's might be a different one; the EAC's might be on, say, regional infrastructure. For example, § A paper from UNU-CRIS cites that: "the AU has been the first regional organization to establish a clear relationship with the UN as it is consciously aspiring to closely coordinate, if not integrate, its mission planning and execution of peace and security action with the prevailing structures/plans of the UN".


labels:, imperatives, ivory coast, SADC, ECOWAS, Mbeki, madagascar, zimbabwe, african economic community

Monday, November 22, 2010

Comparative Regional Integration Network: The EU in Comparative Context


Network Coordinators:

Prof. Alex Warleigh-Lack, Brunel University,
Dr. Jens-Uwe Wunderlich, Aston University,

Network Rationale

The revival of regional integration across the globe since the late 1980s has been remarkable, but it is rare to find sustained comparative work which puts the EU in a context with other global regions, rather than federal states. Partly, this is because scholars of non-European regions have often self-defined as IR/IPE experts at a moment when EU studies has gone through a comparative politics turn, considering the EU and EU studies as something  ‘other’ than their dependent variable. However, it is also because many EU scholars have interpreted the field’s comparative politics turn as a move away from IR. Thus, scholars interested in comparative regionalism including the EU often find themselves on the margins of both communities, lacking iterated access to funding and networking opportunities.

This network aims to help fill this gap by bringing together an interdisciplinary, international group of scholars to debate three core themes, building on the small if growing body of work which has begun this process. We maintain that scholarship on other global regions help us understand what is unique to the EU, and what is a general attribute of contemporary global regions. We also maintain that EU studies and the EU itself can be seen as a laboratory whose experiments with a highly institutionalised form of regional integration generates useful evidence and concepts for scholars of regions like ASEAN or MERCOSUR. The network will expand by gradually involving other researchers, in order to foster collaborative research endeavours.


The themes to be debated over the lifetime of the network have been selected because they speak to core issues in regional organizations and their role in the global political economy, but are also all under-explored in a comparative context:
  • ‘Awkward’ States in Regional Integration: What drives some states to join regional organizations while frequently appearing ill at ease with their choice? How are these states managed by their partners?
  • Balancing Economic and Political Integration: Beyond the EU, it is common for political integration (of various kinds) to precede economic integration; why and how do different regions strike different balances between the economic and the political? And how sustainable are these different balances in the age of global capital?
  • Interregionalism: How does the EU manage its relations with other regions? And do other regions, such as ASEAN or Mercosur, develop more fruitful interregional relations than the EU?
  • Opposition to Regional Integration: What are the motives behind resistance? How do these differ between different types of actors, between different national context and between different regional contexts? Do particular forms of regional integration generate more resistance?


Section on Comparative Regionalism – Europe and its External Others at 6th ECPR General Conference (25th - 27th Aug. 2011)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Making the African Union-European Union Relationship a Progressive One

If it is true that everything changes but the sea, then it must hold
that as the Treaty of Lisbon goes into full swing (with the
operationalisation of the EEAS in December), new configurations will
be created. In other words, a "revised" EU that might probably be more
insular and parochial--even as it seeks to project itself on the world
stage as a global player.

I came across two pieces of literature recently that sought to confirm
the delusions of grandeur that the EU has. I will, however, focus on
one of them this entry.

The piece in question is "EU Cooperation with the African Union:
problems and potential." Written by Cristina Barrios, it operates from
the premise that if the Joint Africa Union European Union (JAES)
summit to be held in Tripoli in November is to be relevant, then both
sides should revise their positions.

In her view, the EU must "simplify its partnership with Africa and
cease to use ACP grouping as the main basis for Africa-EU relations."
And for the AU, it must do more to "prevent and condemn military

This might appear simplistic, but I believe it makes sense.

Let's look at the fact that the ACP-EU framework has been around since
1975. Now, in 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon means new powers for the EU.
It makes sense that these powers will be inimicable and probably
incompatible with the old system predicated mostly on trade and aid. I
believe it makes sense to ditch the ACP-EU framework, and pick the
relationship up through the prism of the regional economic communities

The RECs are perhaps an area that the EU has focused little on--save
in the context of the Economic Partnership Agreements. And even with
the EPAs, let's be frank, the EU has sought to pressure the regions
not only into signing but by creating what is in essence an illegality
of the "Eastern and Southern Africa" region--one that does not have
legal personality in the eyes of the AU-mandated RECs of 8 regions.
There is no ESA region, but the AU has done little to talk about it.

Perhaps, therein lies some of the AU's problems: expecting that the EU
should come and bail it out in a number of areas.

Barrios is more explicit when she writes how while the EU was keen to
show support through the Africa Peace and Security Architecture(APSA),
"the AU insisted on food security and health issues, and asked about
financial transfers." She writes that "this showed its limits as a
strategic institution."

That's quite a key word--"strategic", and the AU has often been found
wanting on being just that.

Forget the fact that the AU has been a place where leaders like Robert
Mugabe can hide behind the cloak of African solidarity, or where
Gaddafi can exhibit more of his eccentricities, and let's look at how
it has a comparative advantage with the RECs over the EU, but has not
been capitalising on it. Even the author writes that:"in general, EU
policy-makers have limited knowledge about sub-regional
opportunities." They have demonstrated this lack of expertise by
asking ECOWAS to merge with UEMOA, while seemingly oblivious to the
immense experience that both ECOWAS and SADC have on peace and
security interventions.

So, could the future be to predicate the relationship of the AU and EU
on security and democracy imperatives?

The author actually did not use the word "imperatives", but in my
view, it seems the most appropriate, given that she's talking about
"security cooperation" and "fighting autocratic trends."

In sum, "security cooperation" is basically about the EU supporting AU
peace and security structures like "Exercise Amani", including support
for the operationalisation of the African Standby Force, which
incidentally has just ended off the East Coast of Africa as "Exercise
It is also about strengthening the African Peace and Security
Architecture (APSA) through the JAES framework, which Barrios
maintains "is a key EU priority."

Similarly, the author is advocating a kind of securitization of
policies as the the basis upon which relationships should continue. In
other words, "the EU-AU partnership should articulate a more
comprehensive security approach", and secondly "the EU needs to be
attentive to the politics in the AU's Peace and Security Council
(PSC)..." I have to emphasize that the politics she talks about is
shrouded in mystery as she does not highlight what particular politics
she is talking about--save the fact that it is understaffed (old
story) at the military level, and "there is no multi-annual budget to
guarantee resources."

On "fighting autocratic trends", we are faced with a crystal-clear
understanding of where she's coming from, and she is more explicit in
this respect when she writes about how the EU "needs to bring
democracy to the forefront of its African agenda, countering AU
timidity and the persistent control of autocratic elites." In short,
the EU is being entreated to co-opt the AU on democratic ideals to
kind of rein it in, and ensure that it becomes more efficient.

In the final analysis, what Barrios is in essence saying is that both
the AU and the EU must be serious about their goals and ideals. The AU
has to be more consistent on countries like Madagascar and Zimbabwe,
and the EU has to be more creative in its future relations with this
52-member bloc. So far, it looks like the regional economic
communities (RECs) will remain a very critical leg upon which a future
could be crafted. It would really now be up to the RECs and the AU to
stress this point the best it can to ensure that a critical and
progressive approach to regional integration is maintained.

labels: african union, european union, AU, EU, comparative approach,
EEAS, Lisbon Treaty

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Blogging -- Back the week of 18 October!

As a blogger, there's definitely one thing you cannot escape -- your
private life. When you're blogging, the assumption is that a lot of
much of your life is put up for public scrutiny.

We all now know that this is rarely the case. The smarter blogger is
the one who is consistent with the themes he writes about. I have
fallen short on consistency at times, but the passion is clearly there
to continue blogging.

Some important and personal issues need to be attended to as I take a
break from full-throttle blogging.

It's only a hiatus...and one that will certainly recharge the batteries!

So here's to when I come back the week of 18 October!

Like British actor Daniel Hoffman-Gill, who I both follow on twitter
and his blog (, I will also be available
on twitter.

I would be happy to receive and follow your tweets as well. I'm on

Rest assured that I shall be doing quite some reading on:

1. the European External Actions Service (EEAS)
2. regional economic integration dynamics in Africa / ASEAN region
4. theories underpinning regional economic integration

Till then!


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Can the European Union (&EEAS) Overcome EU27's Nationalism?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I do not foresee any understanding of regionalism as we now know it without an understanding of what the Treaty of Lisbon has come to do with the so-called European External Action Service(EEAS). That the EU has already set up a website speaks less about how organised the EU is, and probably more about how much in a hurry the EU is keen to project its power on the global stage.

When the EU became EU27 a few years ago, Fortress Europe seemed to have been entrenched. Outsiders probably began to see an insular Europe ready to protect its own interests by any means necessary. Now that the Treaty of Lisbon is well and truly in operation for almost a year now, one can speculate that there will be a deeper consolidation of Fortress Europe in many more ways than one could imagine.

My deepest fear is that Europe has resources and, if we are not careful, much of the world will be taken off guard about what the EEAS will do. I do not foresee the EEAS ever supplanting the UN, but probably in many ways, its power-parity with respect to the UN secretary-general will be frightfully closer than one might care to imagine.

These trends notwithstanding, it's curious that nationalism is on the rise in the EU--at least this is according to professor of international affairs at Georgetown University Charles Kupchan.

In an article he wrote in August, he posits the idea that "The European Union is dying." He writes:
not a dramatic or sudden death, but one so slow and steady that we may look across the Atlantic one day soon and realize that the project of European integration that we've taken for granted over the past half-century is no more.
 He attributes the decline to an economic issue, saying that because it has affected the economies of many European economies, there have inevitably been cutbacks, forcing some European economies to "claw...back the sovereignty they once willingly sacrificed in pursuit of a collective ideal."

He cites Germany; Britain; Belgium; and France is being the major culprits walking down the path of a renewed nationalism.

On Germany, he writes:

Germany's pursuit of its national interest is crowding out its enthusiasm for the E.U. In one of the few signs of life in the European project, member states last fall embraced the Lisbon Treaty, endowing the union with a presidential post, a foreign policy czar and a diplomatic service. But then Berlin helped select as the E.U.'s president and foreign policy chief Herman van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton, respectively, low-profile individuals who would not threaten the authority of national leaders. Even Germany's courts are putting the brakes on the E.U., last year issuing a ruling that strengthened the national Parliament's sway over European legislation.

On Britain, he continues : "May elections brought to power a coalition dominated by the Conservative Party, which is well known for its Europhobia."

On Belgium: " in July, the E.U.'s rotating presidency fell to Belgium--a country whose Dutch-speaking Flemish citizens and French-speaking Walloons are so divided that, long after elections in June, a workable governing coalition has yet to emerge. It speaks volumes that the country now guiding the European project suffers exactly the kind of nationalist antagonism that the E.U. was created to eliminate"

As for France: " In France, for example, anti-Europe campaigns have focused ire on the E.U.'s "Anglo-Saxon" assault on social welfare and on the "Polish plumber" who takes local jobs because of the open European labor market."

In the final analysis, Kupchan offers a solution: "The E.U.'s rapid enlargement to the east and south has further sapped it of life. Absent the cozy feel the smaller union had before the Berlin Wall came down, its original members have turned inward. The newer members from Central Europe, who have enjoyed full sovereignty only since communism's collapse, are not keen to give it away."

One might get away from this feeling that it has little to do with regional dynamics--far from it!

The impression being given with the growing EEAS is that the EU will come to represent a significant force on the world stage. No-one expects that everything would be easy-sailing, what with 27 members and all, but the jury is clearly out on the implications of the EEAS for regional dynamics and interaction. What will, for example, be the role of the EEAS with regard to the African Union / MERCOSUR / ASEAN / CARICOM/ the ACP?

Most importantly, how does one reconcile the growth of the EEAS with the nationalism Kupchan is talking about? If it is true that Europe needs "new generation of leaders who can breathe life into a project that is perilously close to expiring", then what does that say  about the sustainability of this most ambitious of projects that might well unwittingly alienate European citizens in a way they have not yet been?

And, finally, what will it mean for the UN that has taken the mantle to lead the world away from the scourge of war? Will the EU and its EEAS be as magnanimous on the world stage?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

More Thoughts on Regional Integration...TEAMWORKS UNDP/UNECA!

Many thanks for your patronage thus far. I am profoundly honoured to increasingly be the hub of "African integration" initiatives. Although I owe Google for that, still, for those who have come to this blog, many of you have come again. And again!

I believe life to be a work-in-progress, so it is an ineluctable fact that this blog is, too. This simply means that comments and suggestions would be appreciated on how to make this blog more efficacious. I don't see it to just be about prosaic, academic thought on regional integration.

In my view, it ought to be punchy and hard-hitting. I am confident you will get away from reading most of the entries and realise that the entries are very irreverent. I am continually trying to improve and expand the content, so comments much appreciated!

I am perhaps vindicated by having been invited by no less than an official of the UN Economic Commission on Africa to the the UNDP/UNECA intranet, which link can be found on

Those who made that possible, you know who you are! I will move along with this "e-accolade" by consolidating and improving the qualitative nature of the posts I write.

In the meantime, note to self:

1. what's the difference between regional cooperation and South-South cooperation (the answer might not be as obvious!)

2. Will Fortress Europe collapse due to a growing nationalism within the 27 member countries?

These are some of the issues that have preoccupied me over the past week. They shall be transformed into entries very soon!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Understanding the role of UN Regional Commissions

It may not be the most obvious thing to think about when we talk about regional integration, but from where I have been sitting, it clearly looks like the UN’s five regional commissions have been playing critical roles in the facilitation of regional integration. Although it is fair to say that what they do has been presented on this blog through the prism of African integration dynamics, I must add that there is a reason for this.

First of all, I am more familiar with the terrain of regional integration dynamics in Africa. Equally, I am familiar with the noteworthy publication by the UNECA--the Assessing Regional Integration in Africa which was launched in July 2004. I’ve tried,perhaps unfairly, to look for a report by the other UN regional commissions that compare—and have yet to find any.

This does not mean that they do not play equally-important roles. Just that in a region like Europe, where the EU is rather advanced, I continue to question how relevant the UN Economic Commission for Europe is, and the extent to which it has facilitated regional integration in Europe. The same could be said with the Asia-Pacific, and other regions.

I must confess, though, that were I to pursue this line, I might be missing the boat.

This is because the UN regional commissions have been playing key roles in their respective regions. Just because Africa has a peculiarity about it that makes the ARIA report relevant does not foreclose the other important dynamics facilitating regional integration that are taking place.

Truth be told, UN Regional Commission and the work they do is frankly not sexy like that of the UN Security Council.

Let me just say that I spent the better part of two weeks endeavoring to download the last UN Regional Commissions newsletter (published July 2010), and which, frankly, takes forever to download!

It’s a 16-page newsletter that offers summaries of the “activities” of each of the five regions. ( /)

I noticed reading through that the UN Economic Commission for Europe(UNECE) seems to be more focused on signing partnerships—be it with private sector or international organizations. UNESCAP, conversely, was looking at an “Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific”—a publication that would most likely offer a panorama, if you will, of the economic landscape of the region.

As for ECLAC (Latin America and Caribbean), critically-important among its activities was the launch of a report entitled "Time for Equality. Closing Gaps, Opening Trails." True to form, this region has been looking at state-centred policies that facilitate integration. There are also discussions on the MDGs and climate change, including a report on the regional perspective on climate change that has been prepared by ECLAC and the Inter-American Development Bank.

UNECA touches more on publications, including an AU-ECA Economic Report on Africa that is calling for job creation to be prioritized in African countries. Equally significant is a piece on an African response to climate change, and the UNECA signing a partnership agreement with Microsoft.

UNESCWA is also concerned about MDGS, climate change, as well as a guide on public finance reform; the facilitation of clean energy, and women empowerment.

Overall, however, most of us following regional integration—as practised by the UN regional commissions—might be found wanting. There are quite a number of things it does which we might be totally oblivious to.

For example, did you know that unlike the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank was established by UNESCAP, and is the biggest of the UN's five regional commissions in terms of population served and area covered?

But back to the newsletter.

The principal role of the UN regional commissions, as per the July 2010 newsletter, is to facilitate South-South cooperation—technical, political and economic collaboration between developing countries. The newsletter writes:

“South-South cooperation is at the core of the mandate of the Regional Commissions to promote regional cooperation and collaboration, through providing Member States with capacity-building, data collection, and the sharing of experience, as a means of strengthening ties between countries and enhancing their respective capabilities”

The piece adds that the regional commissions "have further expanded their role in increasing countries’ resilience to confront the impact of multiple crises."—as exemplified, I guess, by the ECLAC report advocating state-centred policies to facilitate integration.

Truth be told, during the past two weeks I have been burrowing through material on the UN Regional Commissions, I have come to realize that they have a central and critical role to play not just in development but in regional integration. Given that they publish a lot of material which might not be as sexy as issuing press releases left, right, and centre, they are likely to be relegated in the background more easily than the more-“activist” UN agencies like the UN Office on Drugs and Crime or UNICEF In Africa, for example, the UNECA seems to be more prominent because of its association to the African Development Bank and the very explicit roles it has played in regional integration.

I remain unconvinced that comparatively speaking, the other regional commissions have been as vocal. But I am still reading and learning. When I get more, you are bound to find out about it here. But let me just remind you that UNESCAP is a UN agency that is not to be sneezed at. The history books report that since the establishment of the WTO in 1995, it has adopted a less dirigiste outlook—as exemplified by the information on its website that it “advocates for greater private sector involvement in infrastructure development.” But let’s just remember that it is thus far the only regional commission that has been instrumental in establishing a development bank.

It must be doing something very right--and so must the other four regional commissions.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

FW: NEWSFLASH!--UNDP to produce report on "benefits of regional integration and south-south trade for human development" in 2010/2011

UNDP will produce in 2010-2011 a flagship report focusing on the benefits of
regional integration and south-south trade for human development. The report
will assess how strengthened regional economic strategies can contribute to
human development, with the ultimate goal of influencing policy making
processes and economic policies in developing countries.

In order to frame the discussion and introduce the relevant questions, the
flagship report will lay out UNDP's analytical approach to the linkages
between economic integration and human development, which will determine the
conditions - institutional, political or economic - under which linkages
exist. In light of the theory, the report will also review examples of
regional integration cases, and draw out factors that made those cases
successful in promoting not just trade and growth, but also measures of
human development. The theoretical findings and the conclusions based on
existing regional integration experiences will be used to review current
African regional integration efforts and frame the relevant questions to be
explored. The report will then map out African trade flows (intra-regional
and otherwise) and industrial clusters in order to inform an assessment of
potential benefits and challenges, as well as assess current trade
agreements and their potential for extension and deepening


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Understanding African Integration—Actors and Dates

If one were to look at the landscape of integration efforts worldwide, it would be safe to say that African integration is perhaps the only kind that involves a troika that is fast and furiously emerging as the key drivers of integration at the intergovernmental level. These are the African Union Commission (AUC, est 2002); the African Development Bank (AfDB, est 1963); and the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA, 1958).

As we now know here on this blog, the African Union Commission is a successor to the Adis Ababa-based Secretariat of the OAU, which was established in May 1963.

The AfDB is a regional development bank established in 1964 with the intention of promoting economic and social development in Africa. The Group comprises the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF), and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF). AfDB provides loans and grants to African governments and private companies investing in the regional member countries (RMC) in Africa.**

As regards the UNECA, which is the African counterpart to the UN’s five regional commissions, it was established in 1958 and by the United Nations Economic and Social Council to encourage economic cooperation among its member states (the nations of the African continent)[2] following a recommendation of the United Nations General Assembly.

Many times I have tried to work out in my mind whether the Asian Development Bank(ADB) for example and UNESCAP have played a role as central as the Tunisia-based AfDB. While it is true that ADB has been involved in the regional integration process in the ASEAN region ( ), it has been more of a duo of the ADB and ASEAN working together, with a limited role by the regional commission of UNESCAP. It is even rather telling to note that a google search of “unescap asean” as compared to “uneca African union” yields searches of 75,600 and 86,900, respectively.

Still, far from suggesting that Asian integration has a long way to go, I think a little bit of the comparative approach helps provide perspective on the progress of an African integration that is rarely given much credit. If you recall my beef with Daniel Bach three weeks ago, it was to do with how he had managed to side-step the importance of the capacity-building and research (through its inimitable Assessing Regional Integration in Africa(ARIA) ) that UNECA has provided over fifty years towards African integration processes, in tandem with the AfDB.

But on the specific issue of African integration, other “processes” that are noteworthy are the following:

1. Conference of African Ministers of Integration(COMAI), institutionalized in 2006
2. The AU-mandated RECs (AMU/ ECOWAS / CENSAD / EAC / IGAD / ECCAS / SADC / COMESA)& subregional RECs(six of them)
3. National member states

Bearing in mind that the AUC/AfDB/UNECA have been frontline intergovernmental actors facilitating regional integration, with COMAI playing a secondary but important ancillary role to African integration, we can already see that in understanding African integration, the devil is truly in the detail of these processes.

This is because the picture is far from complete when you look at these actors in isolation. COMAI, for example, has been operating at the intergovernmental level in a context of REC-rationalization since 2006, when it was institutionalized. One can speculate whether without the rationalization of the Regional Economic Communities, the regularity of the meetings would have been established.

The eight AU-mandated RECs have been operating as legal personalities in their own right as well, creating action plans and attempting to implement REC-specific plans. As to whether they have cognizant of how their plans sit with the African Economic Community is less clear. In fact, we can speculate that it is virtually non-existent.

Now that we have a fair idea of who the actors are, allow me to remind you of the key 10 dates necessary to obtain an insight of African integration. These are:

1. 25 May, 1963. This is when the OAU was established.

2. December 1976 –In what is now the DRC, Ministers of the then-OAU decided to establish an African Common Market as a prelude to the African Economic Community

3. June 1991 – Treaty establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) is established

4. May 1994 – AEC starts operating as a continental framework for African integration

5. 9 September 1999 – Sirte Declaration (Libya) encourages the speeding up of continental unity

6. July 2001 – NEPAD is established in Lusaka

7. July 2002 – OAU is disbanded in Durban, South Africa to be replaced by the African Union(AU)

8. 2006:
a. March, OUGADOUGOU -- Institutionalization of Conference of African Ministers on Integration (COMAI)
b. July, The GAMBIA – AU Seventh Ordinary Session (Summit) decides to recognize 8 regional economic communities (RECS). Puts a moratorium on any other RECs [6-7-8]

9. July 2007 -- AU Grand Debate on Union Government, ACCRA

10. 2009 – first phase of Minimum Integration Programme commences under the ambit of the AU Strategic Action Plan (2009-2012)

**thanks, WIKIPEDIA!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Understanding the Relationship between the AU, Africa's RECs and the African Economic Community(AEC)

If you are new to this blog, you might not know that I like to go on a bit...especially about regional integration;-))

Seriously, in my estimation, it is a fascinating discipline of international relations(IR) that's ever-so-ramifying, and ever-so-complex.

It's ramifying because of the various dimensions to it (c.f. the five different kinds of regional integration that exist, and the implications they have for the development of any kind of integration project), and complex because the more answers you get, the more questions arise!

Take the case of the African Union, the African Economic Community, and the Regional Economic Communities.

So we already know of the African Union.

This year, it celebrates its year of Peace and Security. It has an interesting website on, where it is counting down to 21 September--the day of Peace. We also know that Uganda suffered a carnage on the last day of the FIFA 2010 World Cup because Al-Shabaab wanted to punish that country for sending troops to Somalia for the AU's Mission in Somalia

Last week I touched on the "rationalisation of the Regional Economic Communities". where I offered a brief historical survey as to how and why Africa, in its discourse on integration, likes to talk about "regional economic communities". The key year to remember is 2006--an important year for discussions and implementations on RECs.

What about the African Economic Community? (AEC)

I'd be happy to hear what you know of it--or don't.

I'm always operating from the assumption that what I offer here is assisting in building up the knowledge of someone, somewhere. So give me my soapbox, please!

Truth be told, the AEC is already in operation, and has been since May 1994. The Treaty establishing the AEC was signed in ABuja, Nigeria in 1991. The AEC offers a framework for continental integration. The RECS are mere building blocs towards the full realisation of the AEC.

As regards the AEC, it has set no less than SIX stages to be fully operational. Starting from 1994, it has allowed 34 years for FULL political and economic integration. That makes 2018/2019 an important year. So, if we're lucky, by 2020, the African Economic Community should be fully operational, with the 8 AU-recognised RECs possibly subsumed under regions of North, Central, East, South and West African Economic Communities.

I believe the reality to be very different by 2020. As RECs gain prestige in their comparative advantages of peace/conflict management; infrastructure, etc, they would be wont to maintain themselves as legal personalities in their own right, and not necessarily want to subsume their staff and competencies under one sub-regional economic community!

If what Ghanaian lawyer and academic Dr.Richard Frimpong Oppong says is anything to go by in his fantastic piece "the african union, the african economic community and africa's regional economic communities", given that the African Economic Community does not have a legal personality--that is to say that it has rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities, and liabilities under law, just as natural persons (humans) do--it already makes the framework upon which the African Union operates rather shaky and tenuous.

This is because while there is a protocol establishing the relationship between the AEC and RECs, "to what extent are the RECs bound by decisions of the AEC? Since the RECs, which have their own legal personality, are not parties to the AEC Treaty, what is the legal basis for assuming that they will merge and form the African Economic Community?"[italics are that of Dr.Oppong in his piece on p.94]

In my opinion, this is the crux of his piece--and a very important one at that too. Even more important is "rationalising", if you will, the relationship between the AEC and RECs as they progress and advance in their development. This other important point ought not to be lost on us mere mortals and students as we cogitate over the future of African integration and where the AU is going.

In my view, Dr.Oppong has opened up a whole new can of worms around African integration--some of which I will for sure be touching on over the next couple of weeks.

Can you blame me when I continue to search for the elusive quest of a critical and progressive look at regional integration, and still claim that it is ever-ramifying?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Avoiding a "Prime Ministerial / Piecemeal / Paper-based / People-Less" Regional Integration in the Caribbean

"I can vividly recall in a public forum I recently attended, one lady in her verbal castration of regional leaders, described their approach to the integration movement, as a “Prime Ministerial, piecemeal, paper-based and people-less process” ".--Anselm Caines

Once in a while, you come across an article on regional integration that is just too juicy and poignant to let go off. This one, by one Anselm Caines, writing in is one of them.

His article operates from the premiss of an insightful statement made by a lady of regional leaders, which I have quoted above.

Caines proceeds to expatiate his piece on the basis of the four points by the lady. I daresay many regional integration initiatives world-wide could do with a reading of this piece. Caines well and truly nips it in the bud with the following four points.


Caribbean integration (like much integration processes) remains at the realm of abstraction. In other words, ordinary people do not feel any connection to the process. Whether this is the EU, ECOWAS, SADC, or MERCOSUR, I suspect that many of these regional integration initiatives(RIAs) must work harder on their communication strategies to ensure that integration process makes sense, is real and palpable. Despite the success of the Schengen area in the EU, it is reported that many Europeans have a problem with a Europe out there divorced from the realities of the EU's problems.

The lesson is for the diplomats to TAKE integration to the schools, the communities, the citizens.

ECOWAS's Community Development Programme, in this respect, looks interesting, but it is still problematic. This is because of how it has been structured--what with the identification of networks that will, in effect, serve as proxies for the policy-makers at the ECOWAS level.


Integration initiatives fail because they are rarely endorsed by the public before they become policy. Radio and TV spots alone are insufficient. They must be sustained and dynamised.

In this respect the UEMOA-ECOWAS-sponsored "Caravan d'integration" that will end very soon (and which started in May in Senegal) remains a flop, because they passed through Ghana, but not one radio station was sensitised about their coming. For those of us who knew, too, we were not contacted to be briefed on updates. That is a whole opportunity to showcase West African regional integration efforts WASTED!


These RIAs exist solely on paper. In my view, even passports are a symbolic representation of a regional integration on its way to being actualised Other solutions to counter this include Model meetings, as with The Hague International Model United Nations; Model AU; Model NATO; Model ECOWAS. Kids representing diplomats are sure ways of ensuring research is done, and energies motivated towards the idea of regional integration.


Without people, a community of people around a regional integration initiative is baseless. Caines writes:

Remember, matters such as freedom of movement of persons and the right to establish businesses in any member state are very sensitive issues that cannot truly be expected to succeed if half of our populace is indifferent and apathetic to such principles.

What about the teachers union and doctors throughout our Federation? Were they thoroughly consulted so that they could offer their views as to the scope of the social shocks that will inevitably follow

The flip-side is that we, as citizens, must also take an interest in what the implications of these initiatives are for us. If we are business-inclined, we might want to get to know what freedom of movement means so that we can maximise our opportunity as community citizens in the sub-region. Freedom of movement is an important and critical element, for example, for the informal sectors in, say, the ECOWAS sub-region. While the traders might be clueless about what is contained in the 1979 ECOWAS protocols on freedom of movement, they at least know they can -- challenges of bribes notwithstanding -- move across borders with a mere passport.

A more literate person would want to go further and find out how freedom of movement can help with his business across the sub-region.

In the final analysis, if I have not pointed out the article already, let me do so here. You can read it by clicking here.

These are some of the ideas we need to facilitate a critical and progressive outlook on regional integration!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

ASEAN's Elusive Regional Identity Lives!

Remember the ASEAN Charter back in 2007? If we forget the integration snobbery of the EU (where the EU believes its regionalism is the model for world-wide regional initiatives) for a second, we will understand why ASEAN is still not in a hurry to become like the EU. After all, it has its famed ASEAN way.

So when one reads that at their upcoming 43rd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting they are going to discuss the ASEAN Charter in Vietnam, Hanoi, "with a focus on the implementation of the newly-ratified 2008 charter", we can only wait and see with baited breath.

The reports indicate that the Charter is supposed to "provide a legal framework" and set goals for the political, economic and socio-cultural development of its member states.

It has been riddled with holes on account of the fact that some observers wonder why such a Charter when ASEAN remains adamant that they will not deal decisively with Myanmar (Burma).That country continues to be the black sheep of the ASEAN family, and without ASEAN wielding the stick, any implementation of the Charter will come to naught.

So distressing has been the situation that even a few scholars were pointing to no less than the African Union as a model for ASEAN! You can read that article here:

That article maintains:

In 2005, the African Union even suspended Togo in response to an
unconstitutional seizure of power, which convinced the government to
call new elections. Moreover, the African Union is currently
establishing a stronger African Court of Justice and Human Rights to
hear human rights cases. As a result, according to the U.S. think-tank
Freedom House, Africans on the whole currently enjoy more civil and
political freedom than Southeast Asians. While Africa still faces many
challenges, human rights violations are no longer accepted as the norm
thanks in part to efforts of the African Commission on Human and
People's Rights.

By contrast, ASEAN has yet to adopt a single human rights treaty and
struggles to condemn gross rights violations committed by its member.
Unlike African human rights treaties, neither the ASEAN Charter nor
the ASEAN Human Rights Body's Terms of Reference detail specific
rights, but rather list vague principles, such as non-discrimination
and the rule of law. Thus, it is not even clear whether Southeast
Asians possess the same human rights that Africans currently enjoy.

As much as the ASEAN Charter is important, and needs decisive implementation, I think the 14-member grouping must actually also be credited for trying to promote ASEAN in an innovative way.

Given that this is not the first time ASEAN has made efforts at show-casing the organisation, we can only sit bemused by what next they have to offer.

Vietnam currently has a National Committee for ASEAN in collaboration with the Voice of Vietnam radio station.

This idea is basically:

in line with the regional body's attempts to raise public awareness of ASEAN and its role in member states, the radio contest centered around the "ASEAN Community of Solidarity and Prosperity", as part of the socio-cultural agenda of ASEAN under the recently ratified 2008 Charter. The radio contest is just one initiative aimed at communicating the concept and role of ASEAN to people in the region.

Although there remain challenges around the promoting of ASEAN, I think it's safe to say that it is a concept that can be replicated in different regional groupings--all with the aim of offering a constructive and progressive outlook to regional integration!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Understanding the Rationalisation of the African Regional Economic Communities(RECs)

To the outsider, an African regionalism predicated on so-called Regional Economic Communities(RECs) seems strange, especially when we turn to the EU, we see only one EU dominating the European integration landscape.

Today, I try to provide a (historical) survey of the rationalisation, and offer an explanation of why it is key to Africa's integration. It's no lecture, so keep your eyes wide open!

Unlike the EU integration efforts that saw expression through the European Coal and Steel Community of 1957 to enlargement, through to the Treaty of Maastricht that created the European Union, AU integration efforts is of a rather different ilk.

You might re-call that Africa is made up of 53 countries. With the exception of Morocco, all the member states--notably 52 countries--make up the African Union by virtue of being member states of the continent.

In 1991, the Treaty of Abuja established the African Economic Community (AEC), which came into force in May 1994. There are 6 stages through which the AEC will come into fruition:

1. (to be completed in 1999) Creation of regional blocs in regions where such do not yet exist
2. (to be completed in 2007) Strengthening of intra-REC integration and inter-REC harmonisation
3. (to be completed in 2017) Establishing of a free trade area and customs union in each regional bloc
4. (to be completed in 2019) Establishing of a continent-wide customs union (and thus also a free trade area)
5. (to be completed in 2023) Establishing of a continent-wide African Common Market (ACM)
6. (to be completed in 2028) Establishing of a continent-wide economic and monetary union (and thus also a currency union) and Parliament

Now, the AEC is already in operation, but it needs some flesh to make it more substantive. This is where the Regional Economic Communities come into the picture. They are there -- not because they were plucked from the air, but primarily because Africa had many groupings already even before the erstwhile OAU became the African Union in 2002.

ECOWAS was established in 1975; SADC's origins begun in 1980; COMESA's origins begun in 1981; Arab Maghreb Union, 1989; CENSAD in 1998; EAC in 2000 ; IGAD in 1986; ECCAS in 1985.

Looking at the dates, we can clearly see that all of the RECs were in existence long before the establishment of the AU.

To cut a long story short, three important meetings held in Accra(2005) & Zambia(2005); Burkina Faso(2006); and the AU Summit in 2006 in The Gambia all paved the way to ensuring that there was what is known as a "rationalisation" of the RECs. Some of the official documents point to the RECs being "federative poles" of the AEC. Most would simply understand this as "pillars".

Given that there are sub-regional groupings(SRECS) within all these groupings--such as Mano River Union; UEMOA in West Africa; CEMAC in Central African region--there was a need to ensure that the multiplicity of groupings be made simpler to deal with, especially with an African Union that needed less complication on its hands by dealing with no less than 14 groupings in total, which the UNECA recognised.

In effect, rationalisation has come to mean boiling the groupings down to qualities that could be easily identified with. The UN Economic Commission for Africa came on board--as did the African Development Bank. In consultations, the following was recommended.


  • obtain figures on budgetary allocation by member countries for payment of financial contribution to RECs

  • Distinguish between regional cooperation and regional integration

  • Clarify the modalities for rationalization since the RECs do not necessarily have the same mandates and therefore should not be grouped in the same category

  • Take into consideration the agreements that have been signed with parties outside the continent such as the EU

  • Speed up the rationalization process ensuring diversity and pecularities of RECS taken into account

  • Emulate efforts by ECOWAS/UEMOA towards harmonization and coordination of programmes and activities

  • Define the anchor community to lead the integration process in key sectors that require strong leadership such as peace and security

  • Revitalize the Joint AUC/ECA/ADB Secretariat to assist in the coordination and harmonization of integration and the development efforts at the continental level

  • Underline the need to look at the developmental integration as basis for rationalization

  • Though this list was reduced considerably in the subsequent meetings in 2006, it at least offers a serious insight into some of the discussions that transpired some four years ago before the AU Summit in The Gambia in 2006 finally recognised the eight RECs, which have also been "endorsed" by no less than the UNECA.

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    Monday Analysis: Cameroon in CEMAC; Theories on Regional Integration and UN Regional Commissions

    Since my absence for the past two weeks, I have been cogitating and ruminating over the future of regional integration. Not so much what I want to do with RegionsWatch as much as how better to make it.

    Let us start with THEORIES. No concept or idea is worth its salt without a theory. So I have resolved to use at least one entry a week to look at some of the theories on regional integration out there that one can touch on. These include "neo-functionalism", attributed to American scholar Ernest B Haas, which is basically a Eurocentric view on regional integration theory that propounds the theory of "spillover" effect as one of the many elements that make up European regional integration. There are the cases of liberal intergovernmentalism--applied to the work of international organisations like the EU and the UN. Today, I came across the theory of "historical institutionalism"--a theory I definitely need to look into more closely before my head explodes!

    Bottom line is that regional integration does not exist in a vacuum, and understanding the theory, in my view, is a good and sure way of ensuring that one gets a better appreciation of where this fascinating discipline of international affairs is going. Besides, I see that if I can master the theory, I stand a better chance of not being caught napping over the discipline.

    Who's Daniel Bach?
    Then there's DANIEL BACH, author of "The European Union's Strategic Partnership with the African Union." In my view, he makes some bombastic claims about the decision by the AU to name economic communities "regional economic communities", and wonders why the more "advanced" RECs like CEMAC, UEMOA, and SACU are not part of the UNECA-mandated eight regional organisations. As much as I see where he is going, he totally isolates the very important element of no less than the UN Regional Commission for Africa--UNECA--having conducted commendable research on regional integration for Africa in a way that some of the regional commissions have not. Neither does Bach touch on the 2006 meeting in the Gambia that "rationalised" the RECs. For a scholar of his standing, I find it self-serving and unacceptable.

    Still, there's a lot of terminology I liked: "morphology of regional organisations"; "scramble for REC status": "pick and choose approach to regional economic integration"; "scramble for pre-eminence among regional groupings"...

    When I am fully done with the paper, I shall be here for a review.

    Quo Vadis UN Regional Commissions?
    Speaking of which--I have talked about the UN Regional Commissions many a time, and I am yet to establish the very role they play in the facilitation of regional integration in places other than Africa, where it is crystal-clear UNECA has done great work in spurring debate on aspects of regional integration. Seeing as the jury remains out on where they're going in Latin America(ECLAC), Asia(UNESCAP)and Europe(UNECE)--to name but three regions--I can only promise to get back to you on them. In fact, I am particularly quizzed by the UN Economic Commission for Europe. Given how advanced the EU is in its regional integration, I cannot for the life of me see how it can facilitate EU integration processes. Like I said, jury's still out!

    Hegemonic Cameroon--Not!
    If Cameroon is featured here in the title, there's a reason: CAMEROON seems to suffer from hegemonic-deficiency in the sense that in the context of CEMAC, I continue to read that it is not pulling its weight in asserting itself in the way Nigeria has done so in ECOWAS, and South Africa naturally in SADC. What could be pulling it back?

    I guess the jury's also out on that one! Whatever the case may be, better things are promised for RegionsWatch. To name but a few: a reader of recommended reading, the re-emergence of "BIMANORI", which is likely to come out twice a year in 2010, and four times in 2011.

    I am also in the process of developing parameters/indices to "test" the "validity" of regional integration initiatives, which would include things like "imperatives" and what I call "institutional distribution".

    Lost? Don't be!

    It's all to enhance the experience of being a valued follower/lurker/of Regionswatch Observatory on ""!

    Incidentally, to my friends in Abuja who regularly have their page set on August 2007. I am clueless as to what is so great on that page, but thank you anyway! I do appreciate comments--helps me improve!

    Tuesday, June 29, 2010

    EAC Common Market Commences 1 July

    On July 1, 2007, EAC members Rwanda and Burundi joined the East African Community as the fourth and fifth members respectively of what is now seen as one of the more successful regional economic communities.

    Three years later in 2010, July 1 will play host to the establishment of a common market for the EAC.

    Is there something about 1 July? Someone else might ask "is there something about the EAC".

    There sure is! It is increasingly being seen as a to-watch-out-for REC.

    What will become known as the EAC Common Market has been touted by the Secretary-General as a "milestone the symbolizes strong political will and firm commitment by all EAC stakeholders in deepening and widening integration" (

    This date will, in fact mark the "commencement of the operationalisation of the EAC Common Market..." maintained Ambassador Juma Mwapachu. He continues that:

    "What we have achieved so far is only the basic legal framework that outlines what needs to be done and implemented for the Common Market to be meaningful and to have impact in transforming the lives of the East African Community citizens,"

    A piece featured in VOA News goes a bit further.

    First, it talks about how Thursday 1 July will see the commencement of the EAC Common Market, following a protocol that was signed in November 2009. It maintains:

    The protocol is part of a vision that would see the nations eventually form a federated state, complete with a single currency and unified foreign policy.

    Secondly, it touches on the detractors who believe that KENYA, given it is the de facto hegemon of the region (though few might be quick to admit it) might be the country to most benefit from this EAC Common Market:

    Critics of the union say that Kenya, the region's largest and most dynamic economy, is likely to reap the majority of the benefits. In smaller countries, such as Rwanda and Burundi, there are fears that Kenya's larger businesses will push aside the local economy.

    According to Shaw, these fears distort the larger picture.

    "Kenya is a hub, it is the hub and it will benefit a lot," says Shaw. "At the same time, do not underestimate the potential of benefits for other countries. Kenya has a lot of human resources and skills. That can only benefit the region as a whole

    The reality of the situation, however, is that only time will tell how this EAC Common Market will fare. At the end of the day, as the article maintains, "it likely will take some time before the borders are opened"

    That TURKEY's ambassador to Kenya has already announced that his country would establish an Export Processing Zone within the EAC to maximise the potential of the region is surely the greatest indication ever that the East African Community might be up the right path on attracting potential FDI.

    Now it's time to tighten the regulation to ensure that the private sector complements a people-centred EAC!

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    After Schengen@25, towards a Schengen-like ECOWAS Space?

    How very quickly 25 years comes--and how easy it is forget! But if you did not know, hope you have now chalked it under your calendar--the Schengen zone/space is officially 25 years old!

    Since 1985, the Schengen area has acted as: (according to WIKIPEDIA)

    a single state for international travel purposes with border controls for travellers travelling in and out of the area, but with no internal border controls.

    If ever anyone had any doubts about the validity of (European) regional integration, this Schengen area pretty much redeemed that notion.

    I quite like the preparedness that comes with the application of an EU state as a "Schengen country" (currently at 25 countries now). Wikipedia maintains:

    Before fully implementing the Schengen rules, each state needs to have its preparedness assessed in four areas: air borders, visas, police cooperation, and personal data protection. This evaluation process involves a questionnaire and visits of EU experts to selected institutions and workplaces of the country under assessment.

    The West African Economic Community(UEMOA)--established 1994--has since 1 October, 2009 made it possible such that "any visa issued by a UEMOA state will be recognised across the Union, allowing the holder to move freely between any of the eight member states, the first stage in the implementation of a common visa by 2011." (

    At the ECOWAS-level, on 7 May, 2010, a meeting took place in Cotonou, where experts adopted a new road-map for the implementation of the single visa policy within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

    This will be known as an "Ecovisa", and is touted pretty much like the Schengen visa.

    Unlike the UEMOA common visa scheduled to take off in 2011, the "Ecovisa" will take off in 2012. Currently, though, it's possible for West African/ECOWAS citizens like myself to travel freely within the sub-region with simply my passport. I guess a single-entry visa would simply facilitate freedom of movement--especially for non-ECOWAS entities.

    Friday, June 18, 2010

    A "Regional Stasis" in Latin American integration?

    In what is the latest bashing on Latin American integration, a piece in Taipei Times paints an-almost hopeless view of that regions efforts. The piece, penned by Augusto Varas, starts with MERCOSUR, writing that:

    The Argentine academic Roberto Bouzas says MERCOSUR is in a critical state of affairs, owing to the inability of its institutions to maintain “the common objectives which drove its member states to engage in the process of regional integration and the consequent loss of focus and capacity to prioritize underlying political problems.”

    Then it goes on to point out that it is BRAZIL that wants to establish itself as the hegemon--"intent on assuming a regional and global political role that corresponds to its growing economic weight."

    On UNASUR, it writes:

    The proposed Union of South American Nations (Unasur), like the South American Defense Council, is part of a Brazilian regional strategy to encourage cooperation within Latin America in order to counterbalance the power of the US and act as a mediator in regional disagreements. While the Unasur proposal may have been formulated in a more rigorous way than other initiatives, its failure to contemplate trade integration means that there is nothing to tie member states together beyond political will.

    It ends with an quick, albeit superficial, analysis of the proposed Organisation of Latin American States I have written about before here:

    What is important is what he writes:

    ...Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa proposed some time ago an Organization of Latin American States to replace the Organization of American States (OAS). Although the inclusion of all Latin American states goes some way toward repairing the weakened Brazilian-Mexican axis, and creates a new and more positive environment for future political coordination, this new organization is unlikely to contribute much to actual regional integration

    It is generally a good read that merits more critique than I am giving it now. Suffice-to-say that the latest report by the UN Economic Commission on Africa--Assessing Regional Integration in Africa IV maintains on p.495 that:

    MERCOSUR has met obstacles in consolidating its customs unions, and there are new delays and exceptions to the agreement, especially in the field of textiles and apparel. Nonetheless, MERCOSUR trade has been the most dynamic in the Latin American region, especially with respect to intra-MERCOSUR exports, which increased by almost 140.3 percent since 2004...

    Although the picture is not altogether-perfect, ARIA IV does write that:

    ...during its 19 years of existence, MERCOSUR has proved successful in promoting regional peace and democracy. It has generated high-level political dialogue and cooperation among many domains, from justice and the fight against terrorism to the environment...

    In the final analysis, I think I gave the game away when I wrote how the article reeks of dyspeptic gloom about regional integration efforts in Latin America. If he thinks this is chaotic, I wonder what he will have to say about African integration efforts!;-)

    Let's face it, though--against such authoritative statistics by no less than the UN Economic Commission on Africa(UNECA), I think the writer better come again!

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    Uneasy Lies the Crown of India, and the Kyrgystan Question as Seen by the SCO

    Last time I wrote about India, it was in connection with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and how it and Iran were then-observers.

    How things change!

    As I write this, India is facing the prospect of being a fully-fledged member, where Iran has been royally snubbed!:

    In previous summits, the Iranian leader had been warmly welcomed. Last year, SCO leaders congratulated him on a disputed election victory.

    In any event, the ban is formal and no country has yet to be admitted. For years experts noted, the admission of new members has been part of SCO discussions and expectations were high.

    Media in India and Pakistan welcomed the new membership rules as a success for their countries.

    Now the issue will be turned over to diplomatic experts from the various countries, but in some member states, doubts are being raised over the danger of bringing the Indo-Pakistani dispute into the organisation.

    Even if India does not say it, I can understand why India, in so many ways, would feel uneasy having Pakistan so closely allied to it in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation--and it's all about Kashmir.

    All that said, I believe it would be premature for Russia, China, and some of the other -"stans" (Kazakhstan; Tajikistan; Krygyzstan) to think that having those two countries could destabilise the almost-decade-old regional grouping. This is because the issue of international terrorism predicated on Al-Queda (and less on Kashmir-terrorism) seems to be the more relevant off-late.

    Truth be told, I have a serious problem with India and Pakistan joining SCO as members, especially when they seem to be putting little effort into the establishment and development of SAARC. I have less a problem with Pakistan which clout I think would NOT be as great as that of the emerging hegemon-India.

    Anyone who has forgotten the "BRIC" alliance of Brazil-Russia-India-China will notice that Pakistan will not feature there anytime soon!

    But to be more specific about why the SCO is featured here in this post, let me just say that when I heard of the outbreak of ethnic violence in Uzbekistan, it did not even strike me at all that the country had played host to a summit (as I didn't know!), but the country did ring a bell with me over the SCO.

    I re-call that the SCO has been instrumental in formulating a so-called "Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure"--something that made me giddy with excitement a while back. In so many ways, this has resonance with why Pakistan might want to be allied to it.

    The Uzbekistan/Kyrgyzstan is not being portrayed as a terrorist problem--more of an unfortunate ethnic one. I find it regrettable given these two countries belong to the increasingly-powerful SCO. I had hoped to read more substantive things coming therefore from the SCO. All I have read so far is this from Pakistan's Daily Times when it writes:

    The SCO [has] called for restoring stability in restive Kyrgyzstan through dialogue. Nearly 100 people have died after ethnic riots erupted in southern Kyrgyzstan. SCO’s member states pledged that they are willing to provide necessary support and assistance. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said, “We have a sincere interest in overcoming as quickly as possible this stage of interior disturbances in Kyrgyzstan. We also support the establishment of a modern government that is able to solve the country’s pressing social and economic problems.”

    Watch this space as I follow the travails of the SCO in the restoration of peace in this region.

    This might well prove to be a test-case for the SCO!

    Wednesday, June 02, 2010

    Fwd: ECA Press Release: CODA to study financing of regional integration in Africa

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    From: <>
    Date: 2010/5/26
    Subject: ECA Press Release: CODA to study financing of regional integration in Africa

    CODA to study financing of regional integration in Africa

    ECA Press Release No. 40/2010

    Abidjan 26 May 2010 (ECA) - The Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA), convened a policy forum on "Financing Regional Integration in Africa"on 25th May, Africa Day, as a side event of the 2010 Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group in Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire.

    The forum discussions focused on issues related to the financing requirements for enhancing regional integration in Africa, including regional infrastructure development, and the possibilities of establishing a new regional integration fund to drive this agenda forward. Participants included the Chair of the CoDA Board, President Festus Mogae, as well as the majority of the CoDA Board, members of the private sector and civil society, and, experts on regional integration from the African Union Commission (AUC) the AfDB and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

    The forum concluded with agreement that CoDA would seek to take this process forward by commissioning a detailed and comprehensive study on how the financing of regional integration could, and should, be up-scaled, in particular, through the use of innovative and wide-ranging modalities.

    Advocacy to promote regional integration is one of CoDA's priority areas of focus. In that context, the CoDA Chair and Board members also participated in the official launch in Abidjan, on 24th May, of the 4th edition of "Assessing Regional Integration in Africa (ARIA IV)", a biannual report jointly prepared by ECA, AUC and AfDB. According to the latest report, entitled "Enhancing intra-African trade", over 80 percent of Africa's total exports are still destined for Europe, Asia and America while a comparable percentage of the continent's imports are obtained from the same markets. ARIA IV concludes that a focus on regional integration is critical to accelerate the transformation of fragmented economies to expand markets and widen economic space.

    During the working sessions of the CoDA Board, which were also held in Abidjan, the Board adopted a resolution approving a Statute for the initiative, which transforms it into a fully independent entity, that will be supported by the private sector and civil society, as well as the AUC, AfDB, and ECA. It was announced that the search process for a full time Executive Director to head the new organization would begin shortly with the advertisement of the vacancy announcement for the position.

    President Mogae also informed a press conference on Tuesday evening that the Board had agreed a programme of work for the rest of 2010. This, he said, included advocacy activities on climate change in collaboration with the AUC, AfDB and ECA (which are jointly convening the 7th African Development Forum on this theme in October 2010), advocacy on the threat of transnational crime to political stability in Africa, and the organization of a side event at the forthcoming African Union Summit in Kampala in July, 2010, highlighting the regional integration issues featured in ARIA.

    The next CoDA meeting of the CoDA Board will be convened in November 2010 in Mauritius.


    Background: The Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) is a new, independent, international, African-owned forum that identifies and discusses issues of importance to Africa's development within a global context. It is a think tank that advocates for the continent, brings together a range of stakeholders to promote dialogue and provides a platform for African voices to be heard. It is policy-oriented, and works in collaboration with other African and international organizations addressing issues of Africa's security, peace, governance and development. CoDA is sponsored by, but is not a program of, the African Union Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa or the African Development Bank. It is governed by a Board of eminent African and non-African personalities and receives support from the private sector.

    Issued by:
    ECA Information and Communication Service
    P.O. Box 3001
    Addis Ababa

    Tel: 251 11 5445098
    Fax: +251-11-551 03 65


    Wednesday, April 28, 2010

    SAARC Lives!

    Heard some thirty minutes ago news on the BBC Worldservice about the 16th SAARC Summit.

    The reporter cited the internecine conflict between Pakistan and India as being one of the main reasons for the lack of progress of SAARC. Which, in my view, is regrettable, considering this is its 25th year of existence.
    I am happy to have heard news of it on no less than the BBC, and I am also equally encouraged to hear that SAARC is working hard on climate change.

    Other reports suggest that the regional body is considering a regional mechanism that would explicitly deal with climate. There seem to be other positive regional developments--most of which will be the subject of future posts.

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    These words brought to you by Ogo.

    Thursday, April 08, 2010

    CARICOM Hits the (Financial Crisis) Fan?

    What, is this  kind of time warp or something? Why is it now that the financial crisis is unravelling in the CARICOM region?

    Well, if this article is anything to go by, CARICOM is in for some bit of trouble: it's heading towards bankruptcy:

    "The Caribbean regional trade bloc Caricom is heading for "bankruptcy" with many islands unable to pay debts and cover costs, Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo warned on Friday.

    "The region is heading towards bankruptcy, if countries could be declared bankrupt," he said at a press conference.

    Jagdeo, a Soviet-educated economist, heads a task force of the 15-nation Caribbean Community set up to look at ways the region can address the impact of the global financial crisis."

    If this is true, then it means that CARICOM probably has an existential crisis on its hands that finds expression in how it has to source funds to compensate for the adverse effects of the crisis on its economies.

    Financial services and tourism revenue have dropped, so the article maintains, but what is really pernicious is the fact that no less than the World Trade Organisation (Robert Zoellick) is stepping in to assist the region.

    Is the region in for more of the old medecine of neo-liberalism and privatisation?

    Perhaps CARICOM better quickly hurry up and consult other regional blocs for guidance?

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Which Regional Organisation, with the UN, is Found Wanting in Congo?

    I hate to say it, but it is true: somehow, somewhere, there is an ineffectual regional economic community that is not functioning correctly and justly as far as combating and hunting the egregious Lord Resistance Army in the Congo.

    Over the weekend, I have heard on the BBC Worldservice the horrific report of how in December 2009, there was a massacre of horrific proportions that took place deep in the jungle of the Congo. Some reports indicate that Ugandan army is doing little, and neither is the UN.

    As a West African familiar with anecdotal stories of similar massacres during the Liberian conflict, I can only question why if ECOWAS and the UN were able to work hard to restore a semblance of peace in Liberia and put paid to Charles Taylor's murderous rampage across a small patch of West Africa, why can the Economic Community of Central African States(ECCAS), of which Congo is a member do same? And why does the UN not seem up to the task in the Congo?

    ___sent: e.k.bensah (OGO device)+233.268.891.841/

    These words brought to you by Ogo.

    Wednesday, March 03, 2010

    ASEAN / EAST ASIAN COMMUNITY: Indonesia Rising? (1)

    You should see my desk now: full of highlighted paper on readings over Indonesa; ASEAN Economic Community; East Asian Community, etc. For sure, this week, I'm dreaming about ASEAN.

    Truth be told, have been dreaming for the past two weeks, just that I had not mustered the courage to write about it. There is never a right time to write something concrete, so let me begin in this first part here.

    Last week when we looked at a Latin American and Caribbean Community, it seemed clear to me that the world is clearly, clearly moving towards regional lines. We know already of the oft-talked European Union--held as the epitome of regionalism--both economic and otherwise. The AU is also emerging as a pioneer in its own right in more ways than we can imagine. Already, if one recalls, the AU had the blueprint of the African Economic Community that has been in operation since 1994.

    Now when we turn to the East, we see that there are a slew of permutations arising: the ASEAN Economic Community; the East Asian Community (promulgated by Japan); and the Asia-Pacific Community (equally promoted by Australia's Rudd).

    As far as I know,  there does not exist in Asia a kind of Africa Economic Community-like blueprint that would serve as the basis for most of the regional groupings as we see in the eight-UNECA mandated groupings we know of (ECOWAS/SADC/AMU/COMESA/ECCAS/EAC/CENSAD/IGAD). Plus the fact that  even the UN regional commission (like UNESCAP) in that region does not seem to play a role as active in regional integration as UNECA does.

    Clearly, there remain challenges in the promotion of regional integration in East Asia for the competition is hotting up, what with Japan and Australia seeing economic communities as the basis for the foreign policies. (These are some of the issues I hope to pick up in future posts).

    All that aside, as there is NIGERIA in ECOWAS, SOUTH AFRICA in SADC, when we turn to ASEAN, we see...what, exactly? I can tell you on "authority" that INDONESIA could be the answer to ASEAN and that region.

    In my Masters dissertation in 2003, where I compared ECOWAS and ASEAN, I queried whether ASEAN could stage a comeback with a DE JURE hegemon, which I argued was Indonesia.

    The readings I have been doing for the past couple of weeks seem to suggest a more assertive Indonesia not just in ASEAN, but also in the East Asian Community that Japan is so keen to run with.

    Elaborations of the ideas I have touched on right now will be some of which I will touch on in later posts. Watch this space, and prepare for a hopefully more-formidable hegemon that is ready to have a greater say in the region!

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    More than MERCOSUR on My Mind: Goodbye to the OAS?

    Is there something about Cancun?

    First, WTO trade talks collapse there in 2003. Now, seven years later it is playing host to the birth of a new regional organization—the putative Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

    Truth be told, given the gargantuan size of the 32-member RIO group (comprising Latin American and Caribbean states) that has been around since 1986, it was only a matter of time before a formal name be ascribed to the grouping!

    As an ardent regional integrationist, who is also a citizen of the Pan-African grouping (that comprises no less than 53 member states), this proposition looks like a delicious response to not just the US and Canada, but the paradigm of uniting under a regional umbrella.

    More importantly, it looks to me like members of the Rio group have looked left and right, seen the EU, and the AU, probably heard of developments in East Asia of a Community , and thought "why not in Latin America?"

    In my view, the reason why this Community would work is because AU countries, with their eight UNECA-mandated RECs are managing very well, thankyou! Xinhua thoughtfully provided a list of sub-regional organizations in that region—and it’s quite impressive. There are some nine around, with the oldest(Latin American Parliament) having been established in 1964 and the youngest as recently as….

    If what I am reading is correct, then the RIO group is keen to have an economic community that would not just comprise 32 members of the Latin American and Caribbean states, but exclude the US and Canada (unlike the OAS). I am sure sometimes AU states have been keen to have an AU without some North African countries that make up the members of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU)!

    But on the specific issue of regionalism in this region, I foresee this Community to be more akin to that of an AU in the way it both accepts and accommodates the sub-regional groups, but contemporaneously dissimilar in the way it has been explicit about excluding Canada and the United States.

    Honestly speaking, I do not foresee the AU excluding North Africa [especially because of the instrumental role played by Libya] anytime soon. Libyan leader al-Qaddafi’s pivotal role in the AU has perhaps put paid to the desire to jettison any element of the Arab contingent!?

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Monday Analysis: Of Regional Designs (ASEAN / SCO / East Asian Community / ECOWAS / SADC / IGAD )

    The reason I have not been writing much here has been because I have been having an internal dialogue with myself what I'm really doing with all this reading and analysis on regional integration.

    One day last year, my boss caught me printing some stuff about the social dimension of some regional integration initiative, prompting him to ask whether it was just for my "edification" (Not for the first time, I was likened to Kafka who is reputed to have written a novel when working in an apparently-dull job!). Truth be told, in many ways it is, but all this cannot just be for the blog--I aspire to get bigger things out of this enterprise than mere writings left in cyber-space.

    My belief in regional integration in so many ways is about a world predicated on arrangements that are conducive to a more peaceful world. No doubt, man is a social animal whose genius finds expression in thinking, thought, and possibilities for a better world. I sincerely believe that "better world" can be found in regional designs.

    I am heartened by the fact that 2010 is the Year of Peace and Security for the African Union, as well as the year that the Pan-African organisation will seek to operationalise the African Standby Force. I still cannot get over the fact that challenges notwithstanding, the AU has emerged since 2002 as a formidable actor in the set-up of the "regional designs". I hate to say it, but if you even have observers looking at the AU model on human rights as one that could be replicated for East Asia, I believe something must be going right for the AU!

    That said, there remain challenges. One of imperatives is one of them.

    Over the weekend, I was grappling with what imperative could be ascribed to SADC. I have yet to determine what comes to mind when one thinks of SADC--except power-sharing. From Zimbabwe to Madagascar, I think there has got to be more about the 14-member grouping than that, surely? If any of you know, I would be happy to report and update accordingly. I make a lot of noise about ECOWAS here, so it might be odd if you did not know. For ECOWAS, it's on conflict management, prevention and resolution, and I suspect IGAD might be going the same way, though to a lesser degree. Though I did read somewhere that the Early Warning System was pioneered by the six-member grouping established in 1986.

    In South East Asia, Indonesia has been unhappy about talk of the East Asian Community on account of the fact that it believes it cannot happen without Asean. I hope to convey these frustrations over the next couple of weeks. In so many ways, I can empathise with the de jure hegemon that hosts the secretariat of Asean. Asean has been around since 1967--long without Japan. For that country to suddenly swan about talking about an economic community is almost to thumb the nose of ASEAN that has some commendable experience. As they say, though, the devil is in the detail, and I do hope to be reading a bot about the detail.

    On the Shanghai Corporation Organisation, there are some interesting developments. I read a paper the other day that explored the possibility of the SCO being a force for good in the region. For the regional grouping that has Russia and China as key countries, this is certainly a grouping to watch out for. It has well-established structures and organisms that are not to be sneezed at. Interestingly, it has been around since 2001. The paper argued that in Afghanistan, the SCO might have a constructive role to play, so one should look out for it there. Also contrary to Western fears, it is not positioning itself to counter Western influences, at least explicitly in the region.

    I guess all we can do is wait and see! In the meantime, might I recommend that you visit Stuart Hastings "" website ( to obtain insights into where the intrepid regional integrationist has been travelling to. Last time I read him, he was just going to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, that is also the host of the ASEAN secretariat.

    In all this, I derive some hope that the regional designs I talk of will find great expression in the following theories below I have propounded elsewhere many times:

    First, there needs to be identification of imperatives of each region. Simply put, what is unique about a particular region that that region can capitalise on to bring to bear in the conception of an AU government? So, we can say, for example, that ECOWAS's sub-regional imperative is that of conflict prevention/resolution /management, given its experience with Liberia/Sierra Leone/and the instrumentality of ECOMOG. SADC's might be a different one; the EAC's might be on, say, regional infrastructure. For example, § A paper from UNU-CRIS cites that: “the AU has been the first regional organization to establish a clear relationship with the UN as it is consciously aspiring to closely coordinate, if not integrate, its mission planning and execution of peace and security action with the prevailing structures/plans of the UN”.

    Secondly, there needs to be comparative approaches. By this I mean what best practices are there from each of these regional communities that can best be put to good use in any conception of an AU government? This means that ECOWAS's peacekeeping/peace enforcement wing ECOMOG could be analysed for use in a regional organisation like SAARC that has experienced problems over Kashmir/India and Pakistan. What is it that ECOMOG has been able to do in enforcing peace that SAARC can learn from?

    Thirdly, there needs to be collaboration, as exemplified by the donation of $1m by the Arab League to the African Union's peacekeeping forces.