Integrating Africa; Region-Building in Southern Africa

Analysts frequently note the lack of economic integration and political cooperation among the 54 states of Africa -- an ironic state of affairs, perhaps, given the large number of intergovernmental organizations that exist on the continent. Welz examines the foreign policy of eight countries in the region to understand why the member states of the Africa Union, the region’s primary institution of regional integration, have not devoted more energy to realizing the organization’s lofty aims. He mostly blames domestic politics, especially the personalization of power by heads of state, which tends to undermine commitments that countries make to greater international cooperation. The book also makes an interesting observation: countries still governed by parties that participated in anticolonial struggles are more reticent to give up sovereignty. Welz concludes that the passage of time and the continued democratization of the region are prerequisites for more meaningful regional cooperation.

Experts see southern Africa as the subregion on the continent that is the most economically integrated and the Southern African Development Community as the continent’s most effective intergovernmental organization. Saunders and his colleagues have brought together a group of well-informed analysts whose essays largely buttress Welz’s argument that independence is still too recent for most governments to easily agree to cede authority to the international technocrats of an organization such as the SADC. But unlike Welz, most of the book’s contributors tend to emphasize the difficulty of forging cooperation when the capacity of the states involved remains low and the economic and political interests of the various countries diverge significantly. Perhaps the core difficulty is the imbalance between rich states -- especially South Africa -- and other, less affluent members, who worry that South Africa will reap most of the benefits of regional cooperation. For its part, South Africa seems unwilling to exert the kind of leadership and policy generosity that would allay such fears.

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