Integration means consolidating two or more things or internalizing them to become one body just like the cooperation we see among living organisms

Integration means consolidating two or more things or internalizing them to become one body just like the cooperation we see among living organisms (Park & Burges, 1921). I will liken my definition of Regional integration since there is no universal definition to a process deeper than a cooperation where by two or more countries come together on equal terms to conduct trade, or for other reasons be it social or political or economic for their own mutual benefits within the purview of established rules. Integration is very necessary since it helps promote peace, economic viability and strong bonding between and among nations.
This essay seeks to explain the linkage between Africa’s regional integration and development, what regional integration is in Africa, and the critical role of infrastructural development in regional integration narrowing in to Africa. Section one will highlight on regionalism and development nexus using infrastructural development as model in Africa. Section two will explain regional integration in Africa, whereas Section three will expatiate on the critical role of infrastructure.The last section (i.e. SectionFour) will conclude this essay. The following paragraph commences Section one on regionalism and development nexus.
There have been innumerable analyses on regionalism development nexus spanning from structural, agency to ideational. Works of Bourenaneet. al. (1996) show detailed analysis on structural, Solingen (1998) lays more emphasis on agency in analysis whereas Acharya (1997 and 2009) focuses on ideational in his analysis. Both structural and agency analyses focuses on the ability and willingness of states (especially developing nations) to engender cooperation and development through the Regional Economic Communities (RECs); these are the determinants of development (AEC, 2013). Notwithstanding several arguments have popped up as to which approach or agency to choose in the regionalism development nexus. Debates on bottom-up and top-down and as well as arguments on which agency to choose to do what; whether the state, the RECs or at the continental level an agency like the African Union (AU) in the development intervention module of ensuring a boost in economic growth and improved regional integration. In all these differing schools of thoughts I opt for the RECs. I believe the RECs can help push through the development and proliferation of infrastructure towards achieving progress in Africa’s development. I have uncovered that there is a gap in research; a lot of scholars fail to pinpoint the relevance of infrastructures in analysis at the state and regional levels. Although this essay will add to existing literature, I will highlight on the RECs as aforementioned. Although there has been dense literature on development cooperation by scholars such as Haas (1964), Stein (1993), Solingen (1998) and Mattli (2000), I agree with the AEC report (2013) that these literatures fail to unravel structural bottlenecks as major obstacles that impedes Africa’s development. I will prioritize economic regionalization in this essay as a means to addressing these structural bottlenecks. In actual sense, there are gaps in expectations of regionalism and reality. To concur with Foroutan (1992) I believe that regionalism in Africa has failed to some degree: little can be said about integration of goods, Economies of nations in Africa are usually isolated, gains from integration not fairly reaching all states, zero integration of markets and failed promises in trade liberalization. Despite these challenges, and with emphasis on economies, infrastructure challenges seem to make economies in Africa impossible to amalgamate (AEC, 2013). The next paragraphs will expatiate to give understanding of what Regional integration is in Africa.
The call for regionalism gained prominence in Africa when there was the need unite together as one in fighting racism (Welch 1966), the need to break away from the shackles of colonialism (Wild 1971) and later the need to foster socio-economic development (Karns and Mingst2010) within all sub-regions of the African continent. Although, a lot of non-Africans all over the world see the continent as one region, it is imperative to note that the African Union (AU) is there to symbolize at continental level, Africa as one region taking cognizance of the fact that the RECs are functional in their best elements as sub-regional interstate institutions (AEC, 2013). Drawing from literature, it is revealed that the RECs falls under the AU thus performs roles and functions within the ambit of the AU (2013:5). As Mitrany (1965) stipulates that regionalism is a political process I believe that it should be intertwined with economics because both cannot live in isolation (dependent on each other). However, it must be noted that an impeccable regionalism’s role cannot be devoid of functional relevance of integration (Haas 1964). To concur with the African Conference report (2013), I think Haas’s theory on functionalism informs the approaches to regionalism in contemporary society. To recuperate, it is undeniable the fact that integration is very key when it comes to regionalism. Integration brings all units of the organs of the RECs together and it ensures the workings of each unit to function as a single sturdy embodiment. Due to the relevance of economic integration in making regionalism (i.e. political integration) to actualize its potential one of the best approaches path to thread on is the Market-led integration. The Market led-approach in integration indicates that ‘forces of market’ set up at one level has a spill-over effect at the next level. Full employment, perfect markets, no transport costs, and constant terms of trade are some of the key features of the market approach.The market approach comes with five key economic integration arrangements or stages which include; Free Trade Area (FTA), Customs union (CU), Common Market (CM), Economic Union (EU) and Political Union (PU). The establishment of the RECs into full force gave impetus to be constituent of the African Economic Cooperation (i.e. AEC). It was on the shoulders of the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA) in 1980 and the Abuja treaty of 1991 that the AEC was established. Gibb (2009) makes an assertion of which I tend to agree with him on the Euro-centric nature of Regional Integration. He clearly indicates that there is an imposition of Western purviews of economic regionalism (AEC 2013). To deepen this argument, I opine that Africa copies blindly from Euro-centric nature of Regional Integration without taking into account its dogmatic nature in following the conventional precepts of empty talks without taking any action or reneging on promises by its leaders. In order to get a full grasp of integration-development nexus, there is the need to separate regional integration from continental integration. Even the 1964 OAU resolution, the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA), the Abuja protocol as well as the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) make it lucid the disparateness between regionalism and continentalism (AEC 2013). Historical antecedent uncovers the conflicting nature of views by pan-African thinkers. Ghana’s first president, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who can be considered as a radical by many Pan-Africans for instance laid emphasis on continental integration as the only means to ensure total emancipation from future colonialism, and strong continent which can survive competition at the global level. His stance was strongly contested by moderates like Mwalimu Julius Kambarage-Nyere (former president of Tanzania) who intend advocated for the establishment of the RECs as the surest means to achieving continental unity. Consequently, he succeeded when the OAU/AU in resolving this debate passed a resolution to establish the RECs in 1964. Similarly, the early founders of the United Nations were overwhelmed by debates on globalist-regionalist. It is worthy to note that decisions on economic cooperation is dependent on political will or state actors. The African Economic Cooperation of the AU was established to foster African unity through the help of the RECs.
Regionalism in Africa has three peculiarities. They include: Colonial legacy of linguistic regionalism, geographical location and neighbourliness and different opportunities and challenges exploited and experienced by different regions respectively.
Firstly, I believe that the way Arica’s regionalism carried itself since time immemorial especially in the early days since the establishment of the OAU was unique and distinct from that of other continental integrations such as the European Union (EU). Colonial linguistic intricacies called for the zeal for economic cooperation despite the geopolitical divide. For instance, the formation of the East African community was initially purely a preserve for countries that were seen as Anglophones or being colonized by English speaking countries such as the US and UK, not so again after Burundi-Rwanda joined in 2007. West Africa has also been bedeviled with language (English, French and Spanish) barriers with integration as well as conflict by countries such as Ghana and Nigeria over probable assumption to a hegemonic status. Going beyond borders, the aforementioned limitation, engendered a sense of fostering a continental unity.
Secondly, Regionalism in Africa is characterized by geographical proximity and neigbourliness. One of the key considerations of regionalism in Africa has been the nearness or closeness of countries to each other thus going beyond factions that emanated from colonialism. Examples can be seen in Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s dream of uniting Ghana, Mali and Guinea; also Uganda-Kenya-Tanzania unity attempts and that of Senegal-Gambia. The 1980 Lagos Plan of Action is in support of countries benefiting from each other by virtue of neighborliness and geographical proximity. Even in contemporary times, it is imperative to note that countries’ closeness to each other in the same region serves as a guide to RECs in Africa (AEC 2013).
Another unique feature of African regionalism is that different challenges and opportunities present individual African countries. Every regional bloc has come by far with its own challenges and prospects. What might be a challenge in one regional bloc might not be same in another. For instance, ECOWAS is challenged with colonial linguistic barriers as this has even led to constrains in getting a single currency for all member states. The Francophone countries jointly use one currency (i.e. the CFA) whereas the Anglophone countries have not been able to come up with a single currency (Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leon, The Gambia and Guinea uses their individual currencies). Notwithstanding the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) was formed by the five Anglophone countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leon, The Gambia and Guinea) in the year 2000 in pursuit of achieving a common currency, and promoting trade and economic integration in the zone. These factions within the ambit of ECOWAs pose challenges to its integration. It will be prudent for ECOWAS to merge both currencies in order to achieve a unified regional currency. This will help strengthen regional integration. The following paragraph will discuss the critical role of infrastructure in regional integration.
The African Economic Conference (AEC) (2013) reveals that there are two kinds of infrastructure. They are: physical infrastructure and the institutional infrastructure. The former denotes hardware whereas the latter denotes software. In analysis, physical infrastructure may take the form of import-export facilities, management of ports, border clearing, transport and industries (AEC, 2013). On the other hand, institutional infrastructure may take the form of rules based procedures and channel of command in an organization (p. 4). Physical infrastructure revs up the process of reaping gains from the delivery of services and cooperation that accompanies a strong institutional framework however Institutional infrastructure ensures that a physical infrastructure is brought to bear or not at all as it hinges on quality works, resource mobilization, and management of contracts (p.11). Both kinds of infrastructure are pertinent in discourse analysis however it is the physical infrastructure that seems to have been given little or no attention due to political (un)willingness (Nabudere 2009 and Shivji 2009), corruption by many African political leaders (Gibb 2009), and among others. Taking cost into account, it very difficult to carry out a region-wide transnational physical interconnectedness whereas it is very easier carrying out region-wide cooperation. The reason for the difficulties in the former is that regionalism in that sense requires a joint effort to build physical infrastructures such as roads, telecommunication networks, ports and rails way networks where these structures usually come with high capital intensive investments. Even more worrying situation is that African states which are usually protectionists tend not to afford such infrastructures. In order to break the jinx of such structural bottlenecks, our RECs need to up their game by ensuring that nation states liberalize their economies and be up and doing towards mobilizing resources together in building their infrastructures. Already some of these RECs have been doing so well; some have seen the light in projects such as Railways establishment linking Cote d’viore to Burkina Faso, COMTEL, the ECOWAs highways (road networks) linking Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin to Nigeria among others. Consequently, I tend to agree with Nduluet. al (2006) on their stance that without addressing structural bottlenecks, regional development will continue to live under the mercies of weak infrastructures.
Infrastructural development help ease commerce, trade and transport transnationally within the African sub regions. Delving into literature on Africa’s regional integration, it is imperative to note although not so much talked about, some RECs are beginning to make strides in promoting infrastructural development as a means to solidifying cooperation and integration between and among member states in the Region. Examples are seen from institutional arrangements or programmes and projects such as the Regional Integrated Strategic Development Plan (RISP) of SADC and the Infrastructure and Support sub services of EAC. According to Goldstein (2004), the intent of the RISP is to build a supranational infrastructure that will ease the flow of intra-regional movement of means of production whereas Infrastructure and Support sub services of EAC as according to AEC report (2013) is intended to help advance the course of realizing an impeccable level of progress in the construction of long term projects such as railways, roads, management of freights, ports, water transports and civil aviation. It is even more refreshing to note that EAC has created the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA) which will be pushing member states to jointly establish a regional Airspace and manage it themselves through this agency (EAC 2010). By virtue of implementing some of these infrastructural frameworks some achievements can be recorded and progress is underway for instance consensus on Inland water ways and road transport has been reached in a tripartite agreement which has and is currently managing water transport (across Lake Victoria) and road transport system within EAC in the sub region (EAC 2010).
More so, Africa stands the chance to gain in areas of trade, investment and locomotion of factors of production if its socio economic infrastructures are effectively managed. The EAC business forum and the collaboration between and among countries’ university councils (Inter University Council for East Africa) among others shows that infrastructure is very pertinent to fostering stronger African cooperation and integration in areas of employment, border controls, solid business and investment among others (AEC 2013).
Also, it is through development in our infrastructures that we can harness the opportunities of new investment in Africa. Through infrastructures, Africa stands the chance of attracting more investment opportunities in areas such as trade, tourism, and Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). A deficiency in infrastructures militate against these opportunities, adding to that, constrains the free movement of capital, labour and goods. Consequently, this leaves resources not effectively utilized and as well, renders human skills underutilized. Notwithstanding there has been some progress made in attracting investment opportunities through the building of some infrastructures by some countries either in bilateral or multi-lateral agreement. For instance, the joint development of physical infrastructures such as road networks and railways between and among East African countries linking up to Southern Sudan and other countries within the sub-region has brought in increase in exports to some of these countries. Kenya and Uganda has benefited from increased exports since the planned construction of Kenya-Ethiopia and Kenya-Sudan railway and road networks (Business Vision, 2009). Worth mentioning, there are chances of a boost in employment of human labour and skills when investment opportunities falls within the corridors of the continent (Africa).
Moreover, through the establishment of infrastructures untapped natural resources begin to be uncovered. It was by the help of infrastructures that enabled Kenya and Ghana for instance, discover its oil deposits. In East Africa for instance, there has been joint collaboration between and among countries in the pursuit of engendering regional infrastructure that will help reap the benefits from the discovery of its natural resources. Uganda as a landlocked country stands no chance to gain from export and import if it does not collaborate jointly in building a regional infrastructure with its neighbours. In view of this, Kenya is collaborating with Uganda in building fractional distillation and other scientific processing of oil in Uganda (AEC 2013). Consequently, Uganda has thereby opened up its shareholding to all East African Community (EAC) partner members for possible investment in the oil sector. Deficiencies in the railway and road infrastructures has generated a lot of cost in importation and exportation for landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso and Uganda. The following paragraph will conclude this essay.
In conclusion, vividly, Africa’s economy is experiencing a resurgence building on Regional integration-development model. Cooperation is very pertinent in the establishment of infrastructures and these infrastructures are very key in breaking the structural bottlenecks in pursuit of achieving deep regional integration. For instance, ECOWAS- (Economic Community of West African States) and the EAC has made tremendous strides in building regional institutions and infrastructures. Even with the former, its members on July 01, 2010 made a declaration for a Common market to be instituted in its structure (AEC 2013). Integration is the bedrock for resolving structural bottlenecks and its actualization is dependent on infrastructural development as expoundedin this essay. This essay has vividly delved into the linkage between Africa’s regional integration and development, regional integration in Africa and the role of infrastructures in regional integration.

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