An Introduction

Robert J. Cummings, Ph.D.


     For well over two decades, a number of African spokespersons and multi-lateral organizations pointed to Africa's extraordinarily fragmented political geography as a major cause for its economic underdevelopment. In 1980, following a special summit meeting of African heads of state convened for the specific purpose of probing the causes for Africa's persisting poor performance in the economic sphere, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa produced the Lagos Plan of Action. This document, which won the signatures of Africa's heads of state, presented Africans’ owned unified blueprint for the continent’s economic development. Among its major proposals for "collective self-reliance" (food production, human capacity building and trade and investment priorities), was that centralized, focused attention be given to the development of economic cooperation among and between neighboring states.

     Over the long run, this cooperation was expected to mature within each sub-region. It was to move later toward the full economic integration of the sub-regions into a continental whole, and ultimately toward the creation of an African Common Market by the year 2000. At the summit meeting of OAU heads of state in 1991, the goal of an African Common Market was reconfirmed and pushed a bit further by calling for the adoption of a treaty establishing the Pan-African Economic Community by the year 2025. By this time it was envisioned that the several regional country groupings would be prepared to merge into the continent-wide economic unit.

     By late 1993, two-thirds of the OAU member states had ratified the treaty, thereby bringing it into force. Presaging this momentous occasion, the OAU sponsored a major "Continent-wide Seminar on the [Pan] African Economic Community." Among its principal themes were the "popularization of the treaty establishing the African Economic Community" and the anticipated difficulty of financing the implementation of the treaty.


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February 2000