The quest for African economic integration : an assessment of NEPAD's African Peer Review Mechanism.
This study examines the complexities, realities and challenge of African economic integration in the quest for socio-economic development. The central concern of the study is that, while the African continent has experienced different stages in the development of regional economic integration and despite the fact that regionalism has continued to be recognised as crucial to Africa‟s development agenda, the continent has remained the least integrated of the world‟s major regions. Slow in realising self-sustaining socio-economic development and confronted with several political and socio-economic crises, it still harbours most of the least developed countries of the world, despite its enormous wealth in natural, material and human resources. The thesis argues that regional integration is nevertheless a viable strategy to redress Africa‟s development challenges and marginalisation in world affairs especially in the light of ongoing processes of globalisation, regionalisation and liberalisation which present several challenges for individual African political economies. The need for addressing the challenges of effective regionalism in Africa is no longer a disputable reality. This study therefore analyses on-going efforts of the African Union/New Partnership for Africa‟s Development (NEPAD) and African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) initiatives as the latest attempt of African leaders to foreground sub-regional and continental goals of economic cooperation and integration. Examining the discourse from the angle of governance deficits in African countries, the study specifically assesses the effectiveness of the APRM in interrogating issues of regionalism in Africa and in furthering the AU/NEPAD agenda. During the course of the research, data was collected from both primary and secondary sources. Primary data includes: interviews held at the African Union Commission, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Pan African Parliament (PAP), NEPAD and APRM Secretariats, and a number of civil society organisations, research institutions and media houses, as well as official documents of these organisations. Interviews were also held with Professors who are experts in the field of study, a number of academics and well informed scholars and doctoral students whose studies relate to governance, security and development in Africa. Secondary sources include: scholarly literature, books and journals, institutional reports and documents, and various reliable internet sources. The thesis utilises qualitative research methodology and a descriptive and analytical approach. Using a thematic discourse and thematic content analysis, the study draws from a combination of theories (economic theories – market integration and trade theories, functionalism/neo-functionalism and neo-realism) to enable a political-economic analysis of the field of study. Included in the overall methodology, is a sample of three APRM Country Review Reports for Rwanda, South Africa and Nigeria. The reports are deployed to interrogate the following issues and questions: contending issues on governance and socio-economic development in African countries; how these issues impact on the continent‟s integration agenda; and how the APRM could possibly become an instrument to address these challenges in furtherance of the African Union/NEPAD objectives. A connection is established between governance; democracy; peace, stability and security; development at the national level in individual African countries and the realisation of national and regional integration goals. The study finds that in many respects, the AU/NEPAD and APRM adequately respond to key issues of African economic integration. However, the contending issues of debate with regards to these initiatives also are examined. It is argued that these contentions have become pronounced because of the regional integration problematic in Africa and various political and socioeconomic challenges bedeviling African countries. This is the area in which the study finds that the APRM, in its capacity as a governance initiative, occupies a key position in reversing the negative trend of African economic integration and advancing the objectives of the African Union/NEPAD. The study examines various primary and official publications indicating progress in Africa; statistical reports of successes achieved from the period of the establishment of the AU/NEPAD and APRM initiatives as against the periods of the late 1970s and 1980s. Notwithstanding the progress recorded, considering the central argument of this study on the need for regional initiatives to promote socio-economic development, the failures and challenges of the AU/NEPAD are identified, further portraying the usefulness of the APRM. Bringing together the various discourses, this study advances scholarly views on the need for a redefinition of the concept and goals of African economic integration not only to realise the socio-economic development and transformation of the African continent but also to enable African countries, individually and collectively to exploit the benefits of a period of more intense globalisation. The study concludes that the APRM, as a programme of the AU, within its NEPAD framework, has the potential to improve governance and policy making processes in African countries, and to motivate reforms which are critical to African economic integration. The Mechanism should therefore be empowered to achieve its mandate of advancing constructive processes of change in Africa.