Dialogprogramm 2020

PodiumsdiskussionAfrican regional Integration and European involvement“



Wir diskutieren

1. External agents in the African Community as regards regional Integration.


2. Is it possible that regional integration reassert sovereingnty of a State?


3. Can African States „buy into“ the Western model of regional integration and seek to emulate it? Consider the corruption in the African States?



Datum: Donnerstag, 10. Juli 2020

Diskussion: 16:00 – 19:00 Uhr

Ort: Laaerberg, „Festwiese“, Otto-Geißler-Platz, 1100 Wien




The EU’s role as a model for regional integration is widely discussed in scholarship and policy circles. The promotion of regional integration is central to the EU’s external relations and is frequently expected by the EU’s partners. This paper examines European involvement with the East African Community (EAC). It questions the promotion and adoption of the European model and critically examines how the discourse of regionalisation relates to motivations and dynamics. On the European part, the promotion of regional integration is part of the EU’s notion of a geopolitical mission based on the objective of aligning internal and external policy agendas. African elites, on the other hand, frequently view ‘integration’ as a way of mobilising resources and asserting state sovereignty.



„On regional integration“

Regionalism in southern Africa has always been the product of a complex interplay of forces emanating from various scale-levels, including the national, continental and, increasingly important, the international Regional integration in post-apartheid Southern Africa.

Ideas of regional integration in Africa and pan-Africanism look back to a long history. Geopolitical discourse, global actors and the spatial construction of African union. Prominent proponents prior to and during the decolonisation period in the 1950s and 1960s advocated versions of continentalism (e.g. Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah) and regionalism (e.g. Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere) (see Ramutsindela, M. 2009. Gaddafi, continentalism and sovereignty in Africa. After half a century of African independence, however, regional integration in Africa advances hesitantly. Nkrumah’s visions of continental unity have amounted to little more than the continued aspirations of the African Union (AU) (whose name signifies how the EU has come to be regarded as a model for regional integration). This also partially defines perceptions of the EU and the cooperation of African regional organisations with the EU. On the European side, the promotion of regional integration and the ‘EU’s efforts to develop region–region level cooperation’. In search of structural power: EU aid policy as a global political instrument are significant components of collective European external relations “Europe’s role in world peace”. In Europe tomorrow. Sixteen Europeans look ahead, Edited by: Mayne, R. 32–47. London: Fontana/Collins.  [Google Scholar]1973 Duchêne, F. 1973. “The European community and the uncertainties of interdependence”. In A nation writ large? Foreign policy problems before the European community, Edited by: Kohnstamm, M. and Hager, W. Basingstoke: Macmillian. [Crossref] , [Google Scholar], Hettne and Söderbaum 2005 Hettne, B. and Söderbaum, F. 2005. Civilian power or soft imperialism? The EU as a global actor and the role of interregionalism. European Foreign Affairs Review, 10: 535–552.  [Google Scholar], Maull 2005 Maull, H.W. 2005. Europe and the new balance of global order. International Affairs, 81: 775–799. [Crossref][Web of Science ®] , [Google Scholar], Beck and Grande 2006 Beck, U. and Grande, E. 2006. Cosmopolitan Europe, Cambridge: Polity.  [Google Scholar], Bretherton and Vogler 2006 Bretherton, C. and Vogler, J. 2006. The European union as a global actor, London: Routledge.  [Google Scholar], Telò 2006Telò, M. 2006. Europe: a civilian power? European union, global governance, world order, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.  [Google Scholar], EC 2007a EC. 2007a. The Africa–EU strategic partnership – a Joint Africa–EU Strategy: European commission  [Google Scholar]2007b EC. 2007b. The EU in the world. The foreign policy of the European union, D.-G. f. communication: European commission  [Google Scholar]2007cEC. 2007c. First action plan (2008–2010) for the implementation of the Africa–EU strategic partnership: European commission  [Google Scholar]2008 EC. 2008. Region of Eastern and Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean – European community. Regional strategy paper and regional indicative programme for the period 2008–2013: European commission  [Google Scholar]). However, African regional communities have come and gone. In the case of the East African Community (EAC), which lasted for 10 years from 1967 before collapsing (Ravenhill 1979 Ravenhill, J. 1979. Regional integration and development in Africa: lessons from the East African Community. The Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 17: 227–246. [Taylor & Francis Online] , [Google Scholar]), the organisation was revived in 1999 and now includes Burundi and Rwanda, in addition to the three original members of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Under the title banner of ‘Big ambitions, big question marks’, the London-based Economist (Economist. 2009. Big ambitions, big question-marks. Economist, 3 September) explained about the revived EAC as follows:

Many still doubt whether a European Union-style federation can ever be achieved in the region, despite the EAC’s promise to create a single currency by 2015 and to make a customs union work. But recent developments have made further integration more likely.

Yet, as is the case more widely in terms of the North–South transferability of international relations concepts (Ayoob 2002 Ayoob, M. 2002. Inequality and theorizing in international relations: the case for subaltern realism. The International Studies Review, 4: 27–48, viewing regionalisation in Africa or Asia primarily through European lenses may be to misconstrue its dynamics and raison d’êtres. It implies that the EAC’s regional integration project should aspire to adapt/adopt the template of the EU without questioning the applicability of the European mode of integration in post-colonial East Africa. The Economist further notes how a mixture of forces has bolstered the EAC’s prospects, including the chaos in Congo, Sudan and the Horn of Africa (which makes these regions more dependent on Indian Ocean ports). The EU has also been supportive. The EU’s role as a promoter of regional integration is often expected by cooperation partners in other regional organisations such as the EAC. View all notes on European development policy in East Africa, senior officials of both the EAC and the AU pointed to the understanding of ‘the Europeans’ with respect to problems and difficulties of a regional integration process as opposed to other actors, notably the US. An EAC official, for instance, argued that

The EU succeeded very well in its own regional integration and had to go through its own troubles in that respect. It therefore appreciates much more the efforts of regional integration encountered by the EAC. The US does not have that level of understanding.

Similarly, another EAC official asserted that, especially on issues of regional integration,

the EU is very different to the US because the EU understands the intricacies of sovereignty when dealing with regional integration, it understands the process and the difficulties when trying to reach a common consensus amongst the member states, it is like the EAC and has gone through the processes the EAC aims to go through.

During the research project that informs this paper, one of the authors was affiliated with a European development agency that was cooperating with the EAC in a project to support regional integration in the East African energy sector.  In the context of the EAC’s regional Strategy on Scaling Up Access to Modern Energy Services In Order to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The strategy aims to improve access to modern energy services (referring to improved efficiency of traditional energy sources, such as gathered firewood or biomass, but also to alternative energy sources mainly used for decentralised electricity generation) across East Africa. It was initially approved in November 2006 by the East African Council of Ministers, and the EAC was charged with its implementation with the support of the ‘development partners’. At this stage, these were mainly the UNDP, the EUEI PDF and the Deutsche GTZ. The strategy document can be accessed on: = com_docman&task = doc_details&gid = 15&Itemid = 70 [18/10/2009]. View all notes) Through this engagement, it became evident how donor involvement to support the project reflected the underlying political agendas of the donor organisations. In tandem with a similar project implemented through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in West Africa, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and European Union Energy Initiative Partnership Dialogue Facility (EUEI PDF) initially commissioned the project in the name of supporting the Millennium Development Goals (in the case of the UNDP) and to promote regional approaches to energy policy (in the case of EUEI PDF). The engagement of European agencies (primarily EUEI PDF, in tandem with EU member state development agencies, such as Germany’s Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ)) in the process is tied to the wider EU external relations’ objective of actively encouraging and supporting regional integration among developing countries. The Africa–EU strategic partnership – a Joint Africa–EU Strategy: European commission  [Google Scholar], EC. 2007c. First action plan (2008–2010) for the implementation of the Africa–EU strategic partnership: European commission  [Google Scholar], EC. 2007d. Republic of Kenya – European community. Country strategy paper and indicative programme for the period 2008–2013: European Commission  [Google Scholar], EC. 2008. Region of Eastern and Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean – European community. Regional strategy paper and regional indicative programme for the period 2008–2013: European commission  [Google Scholar]).

Both the donor organisations and local policy makers took only limited account of the practicalities of realising integration procedures in cooperation with the EAC. In the same context, it was also evident that the EAC lacked capacity at the executive level as well as a substantial commitment on the part of its member states to advance regional integration. During interviews with key individuals involved in the process, informants remarked how the key reason for the approval of the project arose from the prospect of attracting significant donor funding; a thorough review of the details and full implications did not take place on the part of the decision makers. These expectations arose from the early donor engagement in the process. One informant claimed that ‘the ministers had no idea what they adopted’. Interview conducted in Nairobi, Kenya, 04/12/2008. View all notes)

As Hobart, M. 1993. An anthropological critique of development: the growth of ignorance, London: argues ‘development is a big business. It is very profitable not just to the western industries involved, but to those parts of governments which receive aid, let alone to development agencies’. Clearly, in this case also, a project under the banner of regional integration offered possibilities for personal enrichment for some of the individuals involved, mainly senior figures in the national ministries for energy or regional integration. In a related discussion on regional integration in southern Africa, Sidaway, J.D. 1998. The (geo)politics of regional integration: the example of the Southern African development community?. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 16: 549–576 described the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as ‘an enterprise of state elites’. Niemann also refers to such elites as the ‘state class’ and claimed that the SADC’s forerunner. The Southern African Development Coordination Conference; View all notes was ‘a means to achieve external funding for a shopping list of development projects which are basically national in scope. A weak regional organization which acts as a channel for foreign resources without any power to allocate these resources serves the interests of the state class rather well’ (quoted in Sidaway, J.D. 1998.

In the context of the EAC energy strategy, the EAC member states’ commitment towards furthering the integration process in East Africa was generally low; especially with respect to creating any supranational structures. Although coordination measures were on the agenda of the EAC member states, those processes were generally conducted exclusively on an intergovernmental basis with no steps to be taken to cede national authority to a supranational entity. Member states coordinated with each other only where an immediate self-benefit was visible or expected. Coordination thus appeared more as a tool for ad-hoc benefit maximisation than as a reflex or an inherent and institutionalised part of policy conduct. There was certainly none of what in the EU context has been termed as a coordination reflex (Wessels, W. 1982. “European political cooperation: a new approach to European foreign policy”. In European political cooperation: towards a foreign policy for Western Europe, Edited by: Allen, D. Rummel, R. and Wessels, W. 1–20. London: Butterworth. In Europeanization: new research agendas, Edited by: Graziano, P. and Vink, M.P. 321–334. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan) also describes as a ‘reflexe communautaire’, was neither norm nor exception in the context of the EAC energy strategy project. It was simply not evident.

Yet, both bilateral and multilateral European development agencies played a significant role, mainly because of their inherent interest in promoting aspects of regional integration and renewable-energy utilisation. Both are currently particularly attractive sectors for donor involvement and as such, frequently create instances of donor competition about competencies and allocation of ‘assisting’ roles. In particular, after the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali in December 2007, the energy sector with a focus on renewable energy was boosted in the field of development cooperation. European and multilateral donors seek to augment their engagement in this sector and decorate themselves with a green label.

Nevertheless, despite the regional approach being en vogue, there remains a preference (among both donors and recipients) to maintain their existing bilateral programmes and projects, and only bundle them under a regional ‘roof’ – the EAC was in most cases not regarded as capable or reliable enough to be playing a significant role. Replacing bilateral programmes with multilateral and/or regional ones often causes conflicts of interest over the authority and allocation of funds between different instances at the regional, national and local levels. In such contexts, problems frequently occur through a multitude of actors in the host countries/regions that view themselves in a competition over external resources. This is particularly pronounced when membership in several regional organisations is held by the same country at once, whereby the bilateral programmes need to be aligned with regional approaches of diverse groupings (Gibb, R. 2007. Regional integration in post-apartheid Southern Africa. Tijdschrift voor Economischen Sociale Geografie, 98: 421–435). Consequently, maintaining bilateral cooperation, yet declaring it part of a regional project, seemed to carry a major appeal among donors and host countries as this allows for the established modus operandi to be retained, while simultaneously claiming a regional integration label.

With respect to the SADC, Sidaway, J.D. 1998. The (geo)politics of regional integration: the example of the Southern African development community? Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 16: 549–576) argues that regional integration functions as a way for the ‘state class’ to exercise and reassert sovereignty. States’ claims of sovereignty, he points out, ‘must be continuously reinforced by a set of actions’. SADC thereby reveals a ‘particularly stark form how institutions and discourse of integration tend to operate and how they related to the inscription of state powers’ (Sidaway, J.D. 1998. The (geo)politics of regional integration: the example of the Southern African development community? Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 16: 549–576. Viewing regional integration exclusively as entailing concessions of sovereignty and state power is thus misleading. Integration also functions as a way to demonstrate and bolster sovereignty through participating in practices only open to state actors; i.e. building regional communities, and all this entails with respect to (inter)national recognition and attraction of external funds. The experience of the SADC, Sidaway, J.D. 1998. The (geo)politics of regional integration: the example of the Southern African development community? Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 16: 549–576) continues, thus indicates that a formal commitment to and participation in integration should also be read as part of this set of processes by which sovereignty is confirmed – albeit with its own resistances at the margins’.

In the EAC context, the rhetorical commitments made by national ministers (towards both regional integration in general as well as facilitating and promoting the strategy’s implementation specifically) did not translate into a substantial commitment during the implementation process. At this stage, the interest in an integrated regional approach, let alone supranational structures, seemed very limited; instead, there was a strong preference for external, bilateral cooperation and internal, ad-hoc, intergovernmental coordination of existing (and new) programmes and projects. ‘Many African states are reluctant to share sovereignty’, Gibb, R. 2009. Regional integration and Africa’s development trajectory: meta-theories, expectations and reality. Third World Quarterly claims, ‘because in reality they do not have sovereignty to share’. In this context, Gibb argues that

While the African states might want to convey an outward impression that they ‘buy into’ the Western model of regional integration and seek to emulate it, their approach is actually rather more nuanced and sophisticated, designed principally to support the neo-patrimonial African state system (Gibb, R. 2009. Regional integration and Africa’s development trajectory: meta-theories, expectations and reality. Third World Quarterly, 30: 701–721.

As such, the regional integration project needs to be seen as a state-led phenomenon that ‘can only be as strong as its constituent parts or, more precisely, as strong as its constituent parts want it to be’ (Gibb, R. 2009. Regional integration and Africa’s development trajectory: meta-theories, expectations and reality. Third World Quarterly, 30: 701–721.

Therefore, arguably, the performance of post-colonial African sovereignty (on which more widely, see Sidaway, J.D. 2003. Sovereign excesses? Portraying postcolonial sovereigntyscapes. Political Geography, 22: 157–178) is itself tied-up with rhetorical commitments to integration. There is thus a fine line between a nominal commitment to regional integration, for reasons of ‘confirming sovereignty’, and a practical reluctance to cede authority in certain policy fields.

However, despite all the problems in the process of the EAC energy strategy, the regional approach of this project is not only likely to guarantee continued involvement of the European organisations already involved, but very likely to attract more European involvement in an attempt to support regional integration and renewable-energy promotion as part of the underlying motifs in their respective development policies. This stands in a long history of European involvement. While the character of contemporary European interaction with Africa is different from the colonial period, the colonial and neo-imperial past (and present) cannot be easily dismissed in African–European relations. Moreover, in the words of a Canadian diplomat in Nairobi, Europeans are sometimes ‘blinded by their own success’. Despite this success, he continued, Europe ‘has to recognise the limitations of the model, it does not necessarily work everywhere. Interview conducted in Nairobi, Kenya, 18/11/2008,  View all notes Outside support played a key role in enabling the EU (Lundestad, G. 1998. Empire by integration. The US and European integration 1945–1997, Oxford: Oxford University Press). But what was decisive was that this was combined with political will and feasible goals in the context of Cold War and post-war reconstruction. This may or may not apply to the roles of European agents in supporting African regional integration projects; however, the experiences from the EAC energy project suggest that regional integration approaches in Africa, driven principally by external agents, are problematic – at best.