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!

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