CASE FOR ECONOMIC INTEGRATION:
*Author's Note: The
first of this 2-part series appeared in the previous issue of
In spite of the extraordinary quantities of strategic mineral resources and abundant agricultural commodities that are held by the continent of Africa, most of the countries on the continent are geographically small and economically weak. A combination of many negative economic factors produced these small and weak economies: meager productivity, large unskilled populations, low incomes and negative savings, mounting external debts, capital flight, plunging commodity prices, small markets that cannot benefit from economies of scale, and high rates of fertility.
African leaders themselves, indeed, do recognize that the prospects of achieving individual country development are not promising for their micro-states and economies. Sub-regional and regional cooperation have been viewed as pragmatic means to their development because of the common historical and economic experiences shared by African states. "The political balkanization of the continent into arbitrary nation-states elicits from Africa the understandable impulse to restructure the fragmented region into a more coherent and stronger economic and political entity...." This statement, made in the African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programmes for Socio-Economic Recovery and Transformation, accurately describes the expression that Africans give for the need to build and strengthen regional integration and cooperation through self-reliance.
The many declarations in Africa and elsewhere supporting the integration of African economies consider it a necessity for economic and social development. Encouraged by models such as the European Economic Community (EEC) and inspired by classical analysis of economic integration such as the Balassa stages, most African countries have simultaneously been members of several over-lapping, and sometimes conflicting, organizations for regional economic integration and cooperation.