Highlight 23/2023 – In exploring greater integration in Africa, the European Union’s integration process offers valuable insight
Buba Gedo Boke, 23 August 2023
Africa has been referred to as the Mother Continent since it is the oldest inhabited continent on the planet. Humans and their predecessors have been present in Africa for around 5 million years. Africa is the world’s second-largest continent. The African region established the Organization of African Unity (OAU), later replaced by the present-day African Union (AU) to deal with its social, political, and economic difficulties.
The AU was founded 60 years ago with 32 impoverished countries, whereas the European Union (EU) began 73 years ago with only six wealthy states. The differences between these two intergovernmental regional organizations are immense, and comparing and evaluating them would be unfair. There are significant differences between the AU and EU, in population, history, economic integration, and democratic values. Having an established regional organization does not suggest that the AU will have the same experience as the EU. From the early beginning, the historical conditions of the member states were crafted differently. The AU’s role is difficult due to the fact that it has a larger geographical space to cover with far fewer resources. The AU integration has the potential to be a remedy for Africa’s catastrophic situation, and the AU fully represents the member states as a step in the EU direction.
Nevertheless, most African leaders came to power in unconstitutional ways such as military coups, pseudo-democracy, fake elections, and monarchy regimes. Sub-Saharan African countries are recognized by the EU and UN as the Least Developed Countries (LCD) for their widespread poverty, instability, and corruption. African politicians have usually let the people down, some beginning their terms in office well but then falling far short of the expectations that they carry.
Despite these challenges, there is still hope for AU’s economic development, political stability, and acceleration of integration. In this regard, one of the AU’s greatest accomplishments is the implementation of the Constitutive Acts of AU. The EU’s integration experience provides some guidance and knowledge on how best to advance and accelerate the AU’s integration processes.
The key lesson that the AU should learn from the EU integration experience is the EU’s prioritization of democracy and the enforcement of democratic principles and values through the creation of supranational judicial organs. A further good practice that the AU should adopt is the EU’s decision-making structures within the European Council, Parliament, and the Council of the European Union. It would also be prudent to explore the possible areas where conferral of shared competences would benefit the African region, particularly where such conferral would be useful for economic cooperation and coordination. Furthermore, governance, enhancing human resource capacity, improving funding mechanisms, public-private partnerships, and strengthening partnerships between member states are some of the priorities that integration should target.
Africa’s economic integration presents an opportunity for greater economic collaboration between the two continents. Despite this, the EU’s one-third trade and investment links with Africa and the present trade balance between Africa and all of its trading partners in Europe are unfairly skewed against Africa. Consequently, the AU should work on enhancing the e-commerce trade system in the African continent.
Moreover, Africa’s relations with the European Union must go beyond development aid since Africa is rising and achieving remarkable success in its own development. The relations between the AU and EU should take a win-win approach for mutual benefit and also be grounded in respect for each other as equals in partnership. The AU can learn a lot from the EU, particularly in terms of ensuring regional solidarity through structures and systems that binds members states rather than divides. African citizens and African States have been going through similar and shared problems and this is why we have to look for ways to achieve greater African solidarity. Moreover, most African countries have endogenous traditional values of governance which they should explore in terms of developing democratic structures that reflect their customs and traditions and would be durable in their own respective contexts rather than importing systems from Western and Eastern States that do not resonate with its people or espouse their values.
The EU member states are an example of successful democracies in the developed world and Africans learn from them, while developing strong democracies of their own. It took some European countries more than a century to build strong democracies. Likewise, in time, the African region will achieve greater democratic culture among their individual States and hopefully, this will translate into greater regional integration within the AU.
Buba Gedo Boke, Highlight 23/2023 – In exploring greater integration in Africa, the European Union’s integration process offers valuable insight, 23 August 2023, available at www.meig.ch
The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the authors and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.