A Comparative European View on African Integration: why it has been much more difficult in Africa than in Europe

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    In this paper I compare African and European integration. Despite some important progress, so far African integration has not been as deep as the European one. Measured on the terms of intergovernmental versus supranational cooperation, the AU is essentially an intergovernmental arrangement, with a few elements which might have supranational potentialities in the future. In its present form, the AU is more akin to the UN that to the EU. By contrast, the EU is a complex set of arrangements of both intergovernmental and supranational character. In the broad policy fields under "pillar one", the EU resembles already a federal state, with increasing tendencies in this direction.

    The different degree of integration has been the cause of many factors. I highlight here the importance of two basic conditions for substantial progress at supranational integration. The first one is a consensus on basic constitutional principles. Such a consensus was in place in Western Europe after World War II (democratic rule by law), whereas Africa has exhibited a broad array of incompatible constitutional models after independence. The second condition has been compatible (not identical) socio-economic systems. The Western European countries have been mixed economies with a public sector, but where economic activities were mainly coordinated by market forces. This opened the possibilities to use these market forces, e.g. by removing trade barriers, to strengthen cooperation at ground level and create pressures for further integration. Adherence to such a socio-economic model has also become an explicit criterion for EU membership. By contrast, Africa has seen all kinds of economic systems, centrally-planned socialist ones included. The last ones are incompatible with market economies. The multitude of systems has therefore created additional barriers for African integration. Today there is reason to be moderately optimistic as regards some progress at African integration. Democratic principles are much stronger rooted today than previously, and the time of sweeping social experiments seems to be over. However, in the nearer and mid-term perspective progress is more likely to be achievable on a sub-continental scale; in many cases the first step must be the reconstruction of the "failed state". A further strengthening of cooperation at AU-level is conceivable, but it will hardly acquire supra-national characteristics for many years to come.

    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationAalborg
    PublisherCenter for Comparative Integration Studies
    Number of pages28
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • integration


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