Published 29 November 2023
Africa's economic prospects have always been a topic of great consternation for local governments and international analysts and commentators. A continent rich in commodities such as oil, diamonds, minerals, with favourable demographic trends, i.e. young population and the potential for economic growth, has historically been underperforming. Throughout the years, African countries have advanced regional cooperation through the African Union (AU) and created various Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in order to improve economic growth through trade. More recently, regional economic efforts in the continent have included the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) and the current African Continental FTA (AfCFTA), promising to become the largest free trade area.
This article examines the AfCFTA from a regional integration perspective and not just as a trade agreement that will produce economic benefits (like tariff reductions, trade facilitation, and economies of scale) as the latter part is known and well documented. With that in mind, the thesis of this article is whether a trade agreement like AfCFTA can lead to regional political integration for African nations. First, we look into the current political and legal institutions in the AU and how far regional and political integration has advanced so far. Next, the article looks into the current regional integration effort in Africa, and in particular, the AfCFTA. The intent is to explore the potential to promote both further regional as well as political integration within the AU. Finally, we assess the feasibility of achieving regional integration through the AfCFTA. Although it is still too early to tell, the AfCFTA, with its focus on trade (customs union and a common market) and with a new pan-African dispute resolution system, could be the key to both weathering global developments through further regional integration and paving the way for future political integration.
This paper will be part of the third TDM Special Issue on "The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)". More information here www.transnational-dispute-management.com/news.asp?key=1809