“No independent African state today by itself has a chance to follow an independent course of economic development, and many of us who have tried to do this have been almost ruined or have had to return to the fold of the former colonial rulers. This position will not change unless we have a unified policy working at the continental level.” (Kwame Nkrumah, 1963).
African growth is still shallow rooted and the benefits are narrowly distributed. It is widely accepted that an essential part of deepening the roots and broadening the impact of growth is the continental project of African economic integration. While we know that the overall impact of African Economic Integration (AEI) will benefit all African countries, powerful vested interests and petty problems that require political capital or a political champion stand in the way of progress. The approach of the Building Bridges programme at GSDPP is to focus on the political economy of economic integration in Africa, identifying the forces favouring and opposing reform, and developing strategies to help drive reform forward.
In November 2014, we hosted a meeting on “The Political Economy of African Economic Integration: Strategic Reflections ” focused on analysing the forces for and against integration continentally and nationally, and on how to strengthen the hand of progressive forces. Almost 30 participants, including renowned African and international scholars, convened in Cape Town for a two day meeting.
Original “think pieces” contributed by participants before the meeting informed the deliberations of the programme, that was structured around the following seven themes:
Session 1: The Big Picture: What is our vision and where are we when it comes to African Economic Integration?
Session 2: The Big Question: Why is economic integration not happening?
Session 3: The Rules of the Game: In what ways have formalised institutions advanced and/or frustrated the pursuit of greater regional integration?
Session 4: Africa in the World: How are changing global power dynamics impacting economic integration in Africa?
Session 5: “Trade Follows the Flag”? What is the role of the private sector in stimulating integration?
Session 6: Broadening the conversation: How do civil society organisations and other stakeholders such as the media and parliamentarians engage with integration issues?
Session 7: What Now? From strategic reflections to policy engagement: Key themes and focus areas for the next programme events including points of convergence, challenges and recommendations. (Discussion session only)