Prior to independence, there had been a number of attempts at regional integration, most notably the East African Community and the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Post-independence Africa witnessed the creation of the Economic Community of West African States and a number of smaller economic, monetary and special purpose, multi-country organizations. However, the Lagos, Nigeria economic summit made the goal of economic integration an official, articulated policy for the entire continent. The emergence of a post-apartheid South Africa could only add a more perfect dimension to the economic integration calculus of Africa.

     Because regional cooperation is so vitally important to Africa's  economic development and future in international trade, it is necessary that these indigenous efforts be understood and supported by Africa's would-be trading partners. In the U.S., unfortunately, these regional development efforts have attracted only minimal attention. To the extent that they are known, it is generally their failures rather than their successes that have captured public attention. A notable research void exists concerning Africa’s regional organizations, successes and failures, both within the American academic community and the development community generally. The World Bank, to its credit, has shown increased interest in the topic, reversing a long period of exhibiting an essentially negative attitude toward African regionalism and economic integration activities.

     In an effort to begin filling this void in the American academic and development communities and to inform the American business and commercial sectors, public communications and informed discussions should be increased. This will assist both Africa and the world community in their evolving efforts to know each other in greater depth and with greater precision.   To achieve the desired result, one can see the evolution of a US-based institute on African regional integration and economic cooperation.

     Such an institute could focus on Africa's regional economic integration efforts and potentials for continental and international contributions. It could study integration trends in Africa and identify suitable areas for African industrial development which would help improve intra- and inter-African economic cooperation, first, and then lead to mutual benefits for Africa and its international business and trading partners.


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February 2000