The Revival of Regional Integration In Africa [chapter]

Daniel C. Bach
Transfrontier Regionalism. The Revival of Regional Integration in Africa  
The need for regional regional integration has never seemed so pressing on the African continent, yet the numerous programmes and institutions have achieved very little since independence. Regionalisation reveals itself in Sub-Saharan Africa through complex and often conflicting trends of interaction. Commitments to regional integration in Africa have been constrained by a highly ambivalent critique of the colonial heritage. At independence, the leaders of the new independent states readily
more » ... states readily acknowledged the disastrous effects of the partition of the continent, but were reluctant, if not totally unwilling, to support policies likely to restrain state sovereignty and, consecutively, their power. The stability of existing boundary-lines Nearly fourty years after independence, the boundary-lines inherited from the colonial period remain unchanged despite the intractable problems which they induce. The oft mentioned issue of their forceful imposition is not so much what may matter here, since this is no less specific to Africa than to most European or Latin American boundaries. Neither should the past replacement of pre-colonial frontiers by standardised « linear-boundaries » (Foucher,1988) be considered as easily so long as the post-Wesphalian territorial state model will remain the international norm. Clearly disastrous are however the economic, social and human effects resulting from the lay out of boundary-lines. This is responsible for severe physical impediments to the unification of the territory of such states as Congo-Zaïre , Congo-Brazzaville, Senegal or Namibia; while chronic problems of landlockedness and poor access to the coast are face by Sahelian and Southern African sub-regions. Worse still, in a number of African states, resources are chronically insufficient, due to an unfavorable ecological and human environment. This combination of factors contributes to the description of African states as «quasi-» or « failed » states owing to their difficulty to meet the criteria 3 usually associated with international sovereignty (Jackson & Rosberg,1986 ; Zartman, 1995 ; Badie, 1992 ; Le Roy, 1996). The break-up of colonial federations at independence suddenly highlighted the negative consequences of the extreme segmentation and the intrinsically problematic viability of the political divisions and economic circuits inherited from the colonial period. Whether violent or negotiated, the dissolution processes meant the disappearance of the fiscal and excise redistribution mechanisms which had been the raison d'être of structures like the Afrique Occidentale Française (AOF), the Afrique Equatoriale Française (AEF), the Central African Federation or even, at a later stage, the East African Community. The continent had never been so deeply segmented when the OAU Charter then endorsed and legitimized in 1963 the territorial status quo (Kodjo, 1986 : 268). Then came the end of the cold war, and the reduced importance which non-African powers attached to the preservation of African boundary-lines. In Sub-Saharan Africa, as in Eastern or Central Europe, superpowers could no longer be considered as unambiguous agents for boundary and regime stability (Herbst, 1992 : 107 ; Wright, 1992 : 26-27) at a time when authoritarian regimes were being confronted with renewed demands for autonomy. The intangibility principle appeared seriously undermined when, following the referendum held in May 1993, Eritrea gained independence after several decades of a national war of liberation. Six years later, this remains the only example of a formal reorganisation of the political map of the continent, despite an international environment characterised by a new sensitivity to demands for autonomy and respect for group rights as a whole. The massive transformation of the map of Africa which was predicted by some analysts predicted is still awaited. Secessionist attempts, as witnessed in Nigeria (Biafra) , Congo-Zaïre (Katanga) or the Sudan, are the exception in Africa. Incivility, violence and even rebellion remain geared towards the achievement of « national » objectives, namely the improvement of access to the state and its resources, not least through the overthrow of the established regimes. Irridentism, as illustrated by pan-Somali nationalism, are equally atypical. The case of the Tuaregs of Niger, Mali or Mauritania is worth noting in this respect : despite ways of life which carry a strong regionalist component, they have always expressed their political demands within their respective national contexts. 4 The legitimacy of colonial partition-lines has grown to be much stronger than public speeches and the states'problems of territorial control would let one imagine. Demands for boundary adjustements have been on the increase since the early 1990s, but they all revolve around the clarification or re-establishment of colonial partition lines that were once erased, or transformed into internal administrative boundaries. The above mentioned case of Eritrea's independence may be interpreted as the re-establisment of the frontier-line which separated this former Italian colony from Ethiopia until it was invaded by Mussolini's troops in 1936. In the Horn, the Somali conflict has provoked a de facto return to the boundary which existed between the ex-British Somaliland and the Italian Somalia until they merged in 1960.The expost legitimation of this colonial boundary-line is especially surprising if one remembers how the Somali state was commonly described in the 1980s as a « mono-ethnic » state where people could « trace their descent to a common ancestor » with the result of « a powerful web of kinship ties, making them a community of brothers, cousins and kinsmen » (Samatar, 1985 : 187). Further to the south, the United Republic of Tanzania -born out of the unification of Tanganyika (a former German colony) and Zanzibar (a former British protectorate) in 1964 -has been confronted with demands for the constitution of a separate government for the mainland. In West Africa, the Saharawi independence movement has been fighting for several decades to secure the international recognition of a boundary-line which has undisputed colonial origins. Elsewhere in the sub-region, agitation in Senegal's Casamance and in the western part of Cameroon, is rooted in the assertion of identity claims which draw some of their specificity from distinct colonial and linguistic legacies -Portuguese in the first case, British in the second one. The territorial stability of the post-colonial African states has proved greater than many imagined, yet the future of the pluri-ethnic and strongly territorialised state-model introduced by the colonial rulers remains shrouded with uncertainty. New patterns of state society interactions are already emerging, shaped by changes in the states' institutional and regulatory capacity, the configuration of ethno-regional interactions, the nature of available resources, and the patterns of territorial control. Attempts to regulate geo-ethnic interests, and ensure territorial continuity through a codification of group rights and equitable access to resources are few and not without their own problems, as illustrated by the boomerang effects of the Nigerian consociational model (Bach, 1997a) and South Africa's more recent, yet equally inovative, approach to post-apartheid reconstruction. All too often, the decline of available resources enhances the erosion of the states' monopoly over public violence to the Trans-State Regionalisation Regionalisation it at work on the African continent, but this is mostly taking place independently from state-centrered politics of regional integration programmes. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the regionalisation process results far more than in the case of the Asian economies from the exploitation of boundary disparities and distorsions on a rent-seeking basis. Transactions are, depending on authors and circumstances, described as « informal » or « unrecorded trade » ; as the « underground », « second » or even the « real economy » ; and of course as « smuggling » or « re-exportation ». This proliferation of loosely overalapping notions reflects the kaleidoscopic morphology of trans-state regionalisation (régionalisation transétatique). The concept refers to processes of cross-border interaction which have their own distinctive features although they combine elements of inter-state and transnational regionalisation. Trans-state regionalisation cannot be associated with an institutionalised process(Grégoire & Labazée, 1993), although it is totally dependent on state policies and owes its prosperity to the involvement of state agents. The diversion of official circuits towards trans-state networks may result in decriminalising their attitude towards certain sectors of cross-border trade, but this never leads to their public endorsement since the profits are realised at the expense of the state(s) on the other side of the boundary-line : the renttaking government must avoid at alll costs a strict enforcement of its neighbours' border. Unlike « regular » cross-border trade, trans-state trade is not based on ecological complementarities and comparative advantages. Trans-state trade is dependent on opportunities created by tariff, fiscal and monetary discrepancies between neighbouring economies. This may result in transactions on basic commodities as much as on sophisticated high tech products or narcotics. Access to foreign currency has become an essential component of trans-state regionalisation under the combined pressure of the states' deepening financial difficulties and the purely national dimension of most structural adjustment programmes. Curtailing the costs incurred by trans-state flows between Franc Zone and such countries as Nigeria, Ghana or Congo-Zaïre was an essentiel component of the decision to suspend, on 2 August 1993, the convertibility of CFA banknotes outside the Franc Zone banking network. The leverage effect of the convertibility factor should not be exclusively tied to currency. Trans-state regional flows may equally develop, though on a lesser scale, on the exclusive basis of tariff 14 and fiscal discrepancies as witnessed between the member-states of the Central (CEMAC) and West African (UEMOA) components of the Franc Zone. Poorer transport facilities through the national outlets, as in Congo-Zaïre, or political uncertaintly, may also stimulate cross-border transactions. Pre-colonial linkages are frequently held responsible for the vitality of trans-state regionalisation owing to its heavy reliance on « primordial » ties, and a high visibility in the borderland. This perception requires a brief presentation of the circumstances which prompted the development of trans-state flows during the colonial period. As the colonised territories were progressively integrated into the metropolitan economies, competing communication systems and market centers developed. Distinct currency zones also emerged while restrictive tariff policies attempted to discourage the entry of goods from rival colonial blocs. During the early phase of the partition process, European rulers also competed fiercely to establish their territorial claims, with the resulting effect that the populations established on the fringes of the imperial spheres of influence were particularly prone to intimidation and reprisal measures. Once the boundary-lines were demarcated, the colonial administrations tried to restrict contacts, including with respect to rotating pasture or cultivation habits. Caravan trade underwent an irresistible decline as a result of the imposition of new trade routes, and the introduction of tariff policies designed to promote integration among the various component parts of the empire. Real as it was, the segregative and alienating impact of the partition had strong inbuilt limitations. The colonial rulers soon discovered that patrolling and ensuring the effective enforcement of inter-imperial boundary-lines was impossible due to their sheer length. Competition and mutual suspicion among colonial powers presented the adoption of harmonized policies against « illega » cross-border trade and migrations. As a result, boundary-lines never proved much of a physical obstacle. Whenever attempts to control cross-border trade and migrations were made, they remained limited in duration, due to their cost as much as to their ineffectiveness. Inter-imperial partition-lines were porous, but they also materialised distinct administrative systems, with different pricing, monetary and tariff regimes. This prompted the development of « illicit » trade which came to represent « large profits...or at least small profits by quite a large number of people » living in the borderland (Southall, 1985: 99).
doi:10.4000/books.ifra.592 fatcat:xzkffsyb7vhvlnfeyqzmglxm4i