Regionalization and Globalization in the Modern World Economy: Perspectives on the Third World and Transitional Economies

By Alex E. Fernández Jilberto; André Mommen | Go to book overview

6

REGIONAL ECONOMIC INTEGRATION IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Piet KoningsandHenk Meilink

INTRODUCTION

Since the attainment of political independence, African leaders have repeatedly expressed their commitment to regional integration, mainly for political and economic reasons. One result is that Africa now has the largest number of regional integration arrangements in the world. Unfortunately, our historical review of these schemes will provide ample evidence that most of them have remained ineffective or dormant.

The issue of regional integration has acquired a new relevance and urgency in Africa of late due to wide-reaching changes globally and nationally. For various reasons, contemporary Africa has been forced to operate in a far more hostile external context than a decade ago. Among these are the demise of the Soviet communist ideology and the opening up of markets in Eastern Europe. African leaders have become deeply concerned that such changes will further diminish aid and capital flows to Africa. Moreover, the past years have witnessed a decisive move towards the formation of regional trading blocs—Europe, the Americas, and East Asia—which pose a severe threat to Africa’s trading prospects. Africa’s situation has become all the more alarming as its national economies are experiencing a deep and prolonged economic crisis. That is why virtually all African states have been compelled to implement IMF and World Bank-mandated Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) in one form or another. SAPs are intended to tighten up government expenditures in order to reduce the budget and balance-of-payments deficits. Their central demands include elimination of subsidies; dismantling of price controls; ‘rationalization’ of the state sector through privatization, layoffs, wage cuts and closures; liberalization of the economy, guided by ‘market forces’ domestically and ‘comparative advantage’ internationally; promotion of commodity exports and foreign investment; and currency devaluation (Daddieh 1995).

By all accounts, African leaders have become more convinced than before that Africa has no choice but to pursue regional integration if it is to transcend its growing marginalization in the global economy and its severe economic crisis. Their renewed commitment to regional integration was clearly expressed during the June

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