Daniel C. Bach, ed. Regionalisation in Africa: Integration and Disintegration. Oxford: James Currey, 1999. xix + 235 pp. $18.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-85255-826-3.
Reviewed by Marion Doro (Department of Government, Connecticut College)
Published on H-Africa (August, 2000)
This edited volume of nineteen essays is the product of a 1994 conference. Integration and Regionlisation was initially published in French in 1998, and this somewhat revised English edition appeared in 1999. The basic theme of the essays is that for numerous reasons African states have failed to establish their authority and legitimacy, resulting in failure to achieve sovereignty and control over their territory. The causes and consequences for this are considered under four major headings: I. Regionalism and Globalization in Sub-Saharan Africa; II. States and Territories; III. Regional Organizations; and, IV. Networks.
Nearly forty years ago Dunduzu Chisiza noted the criteria for grouping African states together as regional economic unions:
past economic association; similarity in the level of industrial development; similarity in political ideas and in the level of political advancement; personal friendships between leaders; past association with metropolitan powers; cultural affinity; ethnic similarity; and linguistic considerations."
It would seem that the more things change the more they remain the same, except that with the passing of time the characteristics become more specific. The topics under consideration here include not only particular regional groupings, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Union Douaniere des Etats d'Afrique Centrale (UDEAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), but also issues such as civil society, ideological positions and differences, the democratization process, boundary disputes and the Franc Zone. While the realities of implementing various forms of regionalism are infinitely more complicated than Chisiza may have anticipated, his analytical position foreshadowed the late 20th century patterns of behavior.
In the first section on regionalism and globalization, the editor argues, in "Revisiting a Paradigm," that "regionalisation in Africa is primarily the expression of micro-strategies which seek to take advantage of the resources of globalization" which in turn erode a state's "territorial and governmental legitimacy" (p. 2). Taking into account the negative consequences of colonial boundaries and federations, the end of the Cold War, and limited socio-economic resources, he notes that in many cases these factors result in failure to achieve national integration. This, in turn, weakens the possibility for regional integration except in functional matters such as infrastructures and telecommunications. However, similar factors contribute to cross-border transactions and trans-state networks which result in parallel economies and illicit trade and subsequent growth of influence by non-state actors and the weakening of state institutions.
Using comparative evidence from other parts of the world, Alice Landau examines the merits and demerits of multilateralism and regionalism in international economic relations and their subsequent effects on regionalism in Africa. She concludes that while regionalism could marginalize African states it could also be used as a means to participate more effectively in multilaterism that deals with developed, as well as undeveloped, states. Walter Kennes analyzes patterns of regional economic integration in Africa and recent efforts of the European Union (EU) to promote aspects of those programs. His brief exploration of the strengths and weaknesses of the main regional organizations, as well as the approaches of donor states and organizations, prepares the reader for an analysis of the EU's initiatives in Africa. Noting the limited success of these efforts he concludes that improvements in management and transparency -- especially at the national level --are needed to promote regional economic development.
The second section deals with states and territories and consists of four analyses, which examine specific characteristics of African states and three case studies of specific states. Dominique Darbon's essay "Crisis of the State and Communalism" focuses on the question of "communalist ideology", its definitions and applications, and its relevance for African states. He concludes that there are two options: continuation of classic regional integration or a re-examination and re-shaping of state sovereignty "supported by the new communitarian ideology intent on strengthening the territorial network." (p. 51). Christopher Clapham offers a highly readable and cogent summary of the "Boundaries & States in the New African Order". He deals with factors, which contribute to maintaining African boundaries, e.g. the necessity to define both the state and its legitimacy, as well of the variety and extent of challenges to the boundaries. He offers examples of practices that have supported and undermined those boundaries and how they have contributed to or detracted from their legitimacy and influence. Unlike some of the other contributors to this volume, he takes a positive view of the informal trading systems which Africans have developed as a means of coping with "ineffectual inter-state structures". (p.66)
In a brief commentary on "Paradoxes and Ambiguities of Democratisation," A.N. Souley provides an excellent and precise resume of various interpretations of democracy by Africans and the subsequent behavior of African leaders as well as donors and western democracies. He notes: "Democratisation within a financially exhausted state is an empty word for populations daily confronted with enormous difficulties."(p.72) In such circumstances, when the state has little or no compelling authority or legitimacy, it is not surprising that the territorial framework is susceptible to various forms of intrusion. Celestin Monga asks: "Is African Civil Society Civilised?" and cites several manifestations of civil units, e.g., civil economic society and political action groups, which exert influence on the state through their interactions. Rather than view these interactions as divisive influences, which threaten national integration, he sees them as "evidence of the dynamism and 'civilised' character of societies." (p. 80)
The three case studies include Edouard Bustin's carefully crafted "Collapse of 'Congo/Zaire' and its Regional Impact"; Rotimi Suberu's "Integration and Disintegration in the Nigerian Federation" which explores the extent of the government's centralizing tendencies; and Simon Bekker's essay "Territoriality and Institutional Change in the New South Africa" which identifies the kinds of institutional arrangements which are emerging during its current political transition.
The third section offers six case studies of regional organisations, which provide a rich source of comparative evidence about regional experiences and the different issues which affect their behavior. Olatunde J. Ojo evaluates "Integration in ECOWAS: Successes and Difficulties", and concludes that implementation problems create major difficulties for the organization. Looking at "Failing Institutions & Shattered Space: What Regional Integration in Central Africa?," Marc-Louis Ropivia charges the political elites with using regionalism as "little more than a playground for the projection of power politics." (p. 127). Roland Pourtier writes about "The Renovation of UDEAC: Sense and Nonsense in Central African Integration" and is somewhat skeptical about its future unless or until communication, both physically via roads and virtually via telecommunications, are improved. Michel Lelart analyses the historical background and makes recommendations for future development in "The Franc Zone and European Monetary Integration". In his essay on "The Rival Strategies of SADC and PTA/COMESA in Southern Africa," Peter Takirambudde analyzes their policies, rivalries, and achievements, and suggests that recent changes designed to improve their performance are not likely to be effective. Finally, Colin McCarthy evaluates "SACU and the Rand Zone" with specific focus on SACU's relationship with the Common Monetary Area (CMA) and the need to broaden its regional membership. In contrast to the analytical studies of specific patterns of political behavior, the case studies and hard facts about regional organizations create few grounds for optimism.
The last section deals with networks or economic and personal linkages in cross-border trade, a process reflecting significant aspects of Africa's economic culture that has not attracted as much attention as it deserves. Bruno Stary's descriptive analysis of "Cross-Border Trade in West Africa: The Ghana-Cote d'Ivoire Frontier" takes into account the presence of ethnic groups at the borders, the agricultural and industrial products and prices which are exchanged, and the principal customers who benefit from the arrangement. The nature of the transactions, and the variety of agents involved - tradesmen, carriers, customs officials, etc - as well as the economic consequences create a set of advantages and disadvantages, which are not easily assessed. While the persistence and effectiveness of the trade may seem to weaken the authority of the state it nevertheless serves useful socio-economic purposes. Janet MacGaffey and Remy Bazenguissa-Ganga give the reader a rare look at "Personal Networks & Trans-Frontier Trade: Zairean and Congolese Migrants" which traces the characteristics of these linkages and their importance for long-distance trade between West and Central African countries as well as between Africa and Europe.
Finally, Alain Labrousse assesses "The Production and Distribution of Illicit Drugs" by exploring the economic and political causes of trading illicit drugs, and the various areas where it emerged with special reference to Nigerian criminal organizations. He also describes some of the factors which create attractive environments for drug trade, e.g., "social gangsterism" and bankrolling rebels, and the negative consequences such as drug-related violence. Unlike the two previous illustrations of cross-border trade, which at least provide for some measure of economic advancement, the trade in illicit drugs has a devastating effect not just on government stability but on the population at large.
A dominant theme throughout the essays is an element of ambivalent Afro-pessimism, a constant and consistent repetition of the many and varied socio-economic failures which African states experience and in some cases attempt to overcome. Judged by Eurocentric standards these failures seem catastrophic. One must ask if the various European states used as examples of political and economic integration were any more united or integrated or inner-directed at the earliest stages of their development as national entities? Or, whether their borders were any more of less porous than those of African states today? Little reference is made to the growth of units within civil societies, such as women's non-governmental organizations, which reflect growing evidence that national integration is taking shape and that such units are reaching out and networking across the continent via ICTs, creating an impetus to forms of socio-economic growth which can - hopefully ? - promote positive change for future generations. As with many such collections of conference papers there is a great deal of overlapping evidence. Probably more important, the text lacks introductory and concluding sections, which would offer the reader a coherent sense of the book's purpose and the significance of the evidence. Readers don't mind being told where they are going and where they have been.
The bibliography exceeds four hundred titles drawing primarily on several decades of political science sources [French and English] as well as mimeos, conference papers, weeklies, and government documents. Five tables that provide basic information such as lists of member states of major regional organizations, and three pages of acronyms enhance the book's usefulness. The contributors represent six disciplines in the social sciences, and include academics and directors of non-governmental organizations from Europe, the United States and Africa.
. D.K. Chisiza, "The Outlook for Contemporary Africa", Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1, March 1963, p. 27. Chisiza was Parliamentary Secretary to the Nyasaland Ministry of Finance, and formerly Secretary-General of the Malawi Congress Party; he died in an automobile accident in 1962.
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Marion Doro. Review of Bach, Daniel C., ed., Regionalisation in Africa: Integration and Disintegration.
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