By Patrick Katsaris
This paper attempts to challenge the idea of African integration and its path following the integration of Europe. In an age where international organizations are showing more dominance, it is only natural for institutions to follow the lead of the most successful institution. In the matter of intercontinental organizations that attempt to integrate surrounding States, politically and economically, the European Union is the most successful institution in this aspect. However, not all institutions are formed under the same conditions. The success of the European Union is due to its stability, and its strong infrastructure at the time of formation.
Today, we see Europe as a highly developed continent that is efficiently integrated politically and economically. The African Union does not have this luxury. Corruption, disease, and war plague the continent and continue to keep Africa from development. This is the same problem for the African Union; political and economic integration cannot come to full effect as it has done in the European Union, until a strong foundation is created. As the European Union was developed in different circumstances, so has the African Union. Thus, the African Union must develop its own plan, and combat the challenges it is facing now before fully integrating.
The origin of the African Union (AU) shares many similarities with that of the European Union (EU). Both international organizations were formed to encourage prosperity amongst its members, politically and economically. The idea of the AU was formed in 1999 due to the Sirte Declaration in order to replace the Organization of African Unity. The first Assembly of the AU was held on the 9th of July 2002, this is considered as the official creation date of the AU.
Since its creation, the AU has aimed to mimic the political and economic structure of the EU, another continental institution officially formed in 1993. The AU has planned to follow the EU by increasing political and economic integration amongst its Member States, which is almost the entirety of the continent (see figure 1).
Figure 1: Map of the African Union
54 African States are members, with the exception of Morocco. One example of EU and AU similarities is how many AU institutions that are arising are similar to that of the EU. The African Central Bank is modelled after the European Central Bank, the Pan-African Parliament is similar to that of the European Parliament, and the African Court of Justice is similar to that of the European Court of Justice.
However, the African continent is currently facing problems that Europe has not faced in many years. Corruption, disease, and war are still widespread, which are major factors that can hinder regional integration at any level. The idea of an integrated Africa can be beneficial to the African people and to the continent as a whole. However, as the continent currently stands, political and economic integration can be more costly in the long run, potentially opening up the continent to an even larger level of corruption, disease, and war.
Africa has been known for having a myriad of challenges that hinders their development. During colonization, numerous European States separated Africa for their own economic gain. During and after decolonization, many other challenges started to arise. Dictators began to take control of the newly independent African State. This lead to increased corruption for power and financial means. While these dictators were aiming for their own self-interest, their country began to deteriorate. Diseases and famine began to sweep the continent. While the African dictator was creating policy that would benefit the African elite, the average African was starving and dying from preventable diseases.
These factors would eventually lead to numerous conflicts and wars, usually aiming to rid the African States of dictators and authoritarian leaders. Yet, this would usually just put another authoritarian leader in power. These problems are what have been keeping Africa from properly developing into a substantial political and economic entity. This is where the AU plans to change things, by making Africa a major actor on the world stage, however if these challenges continue to persist, the AU would simply add onto the challenges Africa faces.
The African Union Compared to the European Union
Since its creations, the AU has been attempting to integrate regionally by using the EU model. The fundamental goals of both institutions are nearly identical, to integrate the continent to prosper politically and economically. In addition to this, most of the institutions of the AU resemble closely to that of the EU (see figure 2). Many of the institutions that we see in Europe, are being used within Africa. Although this may seem as a great tool for cooperation, this could potentially open the continent to larger threats, as Africa is may not yet ready for this level of integration.
Figure 2: African Union Institutions Compared to European Union Institutions
– Assembly of the Union (Heads of States) – Executive Council (Ministers)
|– European Council (Heads of States)
– Council of the European Union (Ministers) – European Parliament
– European Court of Justice
– Court of Auditors
– European Commission
– Committee of Regions
– Committee of Permanent Representatives
– European Central Bank
– European Investment Bank
– Other Offices and Agencies
Sore, Sougrynoma Z. Establishing Regional Integration: E African Union and the European Union.
During the integration of Europe, the continent was mostly stable. There had not been a major conflict since the Second World War, and the economies of the Member States were stable. Europe was a stable continent when the EU became a large international organization, widespread corruption, war, or disease was almost non-existent. While in Africa, corruption, disease, and war are rampant along the continent. Also, during the rise of the AU, Africa was still receiving billions of dollars in foreign aid; Europe did not need this aid.
In addition to this, Europe started with fewer States during integration, and gained States along the way, today the EU currently has 28 Member States. The AU started with a larger number of Member States, approximately 34, and today the AU is comprised of 54 States. This large number of members not only makes the integration process more complex, but also makes accountability and compliance more difficult.
Within the next decade, the AU has planned to adopt another policy similar to that of the EU, the free movement of people. The AU has planned to make a visa-free passport for all 54 of its Member States, hoping to grow the African economy. Although this has been proven in the EU to grow regional economies, the EU was highly developed at that point. Africa is still currently dealing with rampant disease, numerous conflicts, and cases of corruption. The free movement of people in Africa could potentially grow the economy, but could also allow for the free movement of terrorists, which could spread conflicts over more States.
As the AU is following the EU model of regional integration, there are many similarities between these two international organizations. The institutions that the AU has implemented resemble that of the EU institutions. However, the AU still has challenges that the EU did not have to face during its integration. Increased integration in Europe was proven to be mostly successful, yet increased integration in Africa could potentially hurt the continent more, by allowing a larger form of corruption, disease, and war to have full access of the whole continent.
Corruption has always been a key talking point within Africa. Bribery, coercion, and violations of human rights are rampant among many African States. According to Transparency Internationals Corruption Perception Index (CPI), an index that measures corruption from 100 to 0. 0 resembles a State that is perfectly corrupted, while 100 resemble a State that is free from corruption. In the top 10 most corrupt States, Africa holds 50% of the list, with an African State obtaining the number one position, Somalia with a CPI score of 8.
Corrupt leaders are also a common occurrence within Africa, it would be common to see public officials receiving bribes or partaking in acts that would benefit them or their relatives and friends. Corruption is everywhere, however it is much more prevalent within the African continent. For example, in 2015, a Nigerian Foreign Minister was able to steal $6 Billion from the Nigerian government. 17 years prior, the President of Nigeria at the time, Sani Abachi; along with his family, used the States central bank as their own private account. Abachi stole an estimated $6.54 Billion. Leaders such as this are not uncommon in Africa, nor will they be uncommon in a fully integrated Africa.
When there are corrupt leaders of individual States, those corrupt leaders will eventually begin to lead within the AU. Teodoro Nguema, the President of Equatorial Guinea, and a chairperson of the AU from 2011 to 2012, is listed as five of the worst leaders in Africa, due to multiple accusations of corruption. Many African leaders attempt to benefit themselves personally or financially, either by stealing money from the State, or by instilling a patron-client system. This will not disappear with the AU, corruption will still continue, just at a larger level. Corrupt leaders will not just have access to their own central bank, but to that of the African Central Bank.
When corrupt African leaders are elected or nominated into an AU leadership position, they now have access to not only their own State, but to all 54 Member States of the AU. This is not a problem the EU faces; elected leaders do not aim to steal from their own State or that of the other members. While this challenge still persists, the AU is making each member more vulnerable to corruption.
One factor that must be considered before Africa begins to integrate is that of disease. Africa has been the home to numerous infectious diseases such as AIDs, malaria, and typhoid. These diseases have been able to survive so long and grow so large due to weak institutions that were not able to combat them effectively. Many Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) have been attempting to combat particular diseases. However very helpful to communities, these disease still persist within certain regions and specific States.
The free movement of people, a policy that the AU would like to see in action by 2020, could also allow for the free movement of many of the common African infectious diseases. In the EU, the free movement of people has been able to facilitate an increase in economic activity, by “lowering borders” and allowing the citizens of Member States to move freely within the area. If this policy were to happen within the AU, diseases that are not prevalent in certain regions will be able to spread to those regions and more. Although there are policies that the AU are implementing, such as an agreement with China to combat these diseases, allowing the free movement of people to early will only increase the African diseases problems.
War and Conflict
The last challenge that Africa has to handle is war and conflict. During the existence of the EU, there has been no wars or conflicts amongst Member States. Since the formation of the AU, there has been roughly about 53 wars or conflicts, with many of those conflicts still continuing. These wars are able to effectively put strain on independent States, while at the same time putting strain on the Union itself.
In addition, many conflicts involve religious extremists. These non-State actors are very hard to distinguish from a normal citizen. This, paired with the policy of the free movement of people, can give these terrorists the freedom to plan and operate attacks throughout the continent. Even today, in the EU, various terrorist attacks have happened throughout the continent. The influx of immigrants from a war torn Syria, mixed with the policy of free movement of people, has given terrorist groups an opportunity to attack major European cities such as Paris and Brussels. As well as this, conflicts could potentially spread. If the AU strictly follows the EU model, there would be no individual State checkpoints, no borders, this could allow wars and conflicts to not only spread throughout the State, but also throughout the continent.
Benefits of an Integrated Africa
Intercontinental- international organizations have been proven to work, the EU is the best example of this. The AU is no different; there are already policies that are in place that aim to tackle corruption, disease, and war. For example, the AU has effectively suspended Madagascar due to a military take over of the government. This shows the dedication this institution has to democracy, as well as their opinion on a militaristic State.
On the challenge of corruption, the AU has been preparing to eliminate and prevent corruption in its entirety. In the “African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption” the AU has placed it on each Member State to adhere to the “Respect for democratic principles and institutions, popular participation, the rule of law and good governance”. 37 Member States have completely ratified this document, it is important to note that Somalia was not one of those States.
Furthermore, there are already numerous organizations and policies that aim to ease the disease epidemic in Africa. The most notable being the AU partnership with China, where China will assist the continent by providing medical support. All of these policies show that the AU is attempting to better the continent, structurally. Corruption, disease, and war are currently being dealt with, however this is all that the AU should be dealing with in the near future.
The AU does not have the luxury that the EU had and continues to have. The EU was formed after a major war, yet has not had a war amongst its members since. Also, disease and corruption are not a major challenge within the European continent. With the absence of these challenges, the EU has been able to grow into one of the most successful inter-continental organizations.
The AU is an important first step for Africa. Increased cooperation to combat the issues the continent faces can positively impact results. If the major three challenges Africa faces, corruption, disease, and war, are dealt with, then increased political and economic integration could but Africa onto the international theatre the same way the EU is, if not larger and better. Along with this, the continent can begin to grow, by freely trading what each country specializes in. One important example, landlocked States would potentially be able to easily share ports with their neighbor States that have a coast. This would allow for landlocked States to increase imports and exports, growing the economy of the State, and ultimately of the continent. With the absence of the challenges the continent faces, the AU could develop Africa into a developed and stable continent.
The AU is a major factor in development of the continent. Just as the EU has shown, increased cooperation between States under an intercontinental institution, can lead to higher development that can benefit everyone on the continent. However, corruption, disease, and war are still rampant throughout Africa. These challenges not only hinder development of individual States, but also hinder the development of intercontinental cooperation.
The AU, unfortunately, does not share the good conditions the EU was formed under. The EU was created during a peaceful time, with almost not corruption or disease epidemic. Therefore, the AU must first focus its attentions on improving the stability and infrastructure of the continent. The AU must tackle the challenges that plague the continent before any increased integration, politically or economically, takes place. Increased integration of a continent that has widespread corruption, disease, or war, will only make these challenges larger and more widespread, ultimately hurting the citizens that the AU aims to help.
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