11 May 2014

Central Africa: Strength in Unity, and Vice Versa - Central Africa's Integration Problem


Is it a coincidence that Africa's most troubled region is also its least integrated? SIMON ALLISON explores why central Africa has failed to make any progress on regional unity, and what this means for its future (no, it's not good news). After all, a region is only as effective as the sum of its parts.

October 25th is Central African Regional Integration Day. Few people know or observe this holiday because the citizens of Africa's poorest and most conflict-prone region have little to celebrate.

The Organisation of African Unity, the predecessor of the African Union (AU), established the African Economic Community (AEC) when its member states signed the Abuja Treaty in 1991. The AEC is based on the premise that regional integration solves all manner of ills: trade imbalances and barriers, social disunity, cross-border tensions and poor living standards. Name it and regional integration will fix it.

In the places where it has happened, regional integration has helped kickstart moribund economies and enhance regional security. Not every region, however, can boast impressive results. Implementing neighbourly ties is more difficult than the authors of the Abuja Treaty anticipated. Central Africa has barely implemented it at all. Without question, this is the...

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