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Supporting or hindering regional integration in Africa? The role of the European Union

Sanoussi Bilal

Regional integration processes at both the pan-African and sub-regional levels are high on the African agenda. This would please the European Union, which has been a strong proponent of regional integration initiatives by its partners, and a key role model for many. But what has been the approach of the EU to support regional integration in Africa? What is its impact on African integration processes? This paper examines the initiatives adopted jointly by Africa and the European Union, and critically assesses their impact on the regional integration dynamics. In particular, based on insights from both an African and European perspective, the study shows that while the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) between the EU and African regions/countries have stimulated the debate on integration in several African regions, it has also generated both systemic and practical impediments to regional integration. Besides, while the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) adopted at the Lisbon Summit in December 2007 has the potential to co-ordinate and rationalise regional integration initiatives, it has so far failed to do so, having neglected African integration initiatives, the EPA process, or integration with the Mediterranean countries. The paper concludes with suggestions on how integration initiatives and support can move away from a technocratic approach to address substantive development issues in a more coherent and pragmatic manner.

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