Regionalism and Economic Integration in Africa: A Conceptual and Theoretical Perspective
Opoku, Eric Evans Osei
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A well-established strand of the literature on regionalism and economic integration has made clear that economic, geopolitical, and socio-cultural relationships across the globe, for which Africa is no exception, have been changing rapidly in the last few decades. African leaders have been embracing these concepts as vital elements of their development agenda and have engaged their countries in a number of integration arrangements. This study has investigated regionalism and economic integration in Africa from a conceptual and theoretical perspective. The study identified that (i) the rationalist’s theory of neorealism and neoliberalism, (ii) the social constructivism theory, and (iii) several theories of economic integration are very relevant in explaining the formation of regional and economic blocs in Africa. Theories of economic integration that focus on trade, economic interdependency, monetary, fiscal, and political policy coordination seem to be the main forces driving regionalism and economic integration on the continent. The study revealed transportation and mobility of factors of production, limited intra-African trade, multi-memberships, macroeconomic divergence, and conflicts as key factors hindering the success of regionalism and economic integration in Africa. Although regionalism and economic integration on the continent is plagued with these challenges, there are opportunities and possibilities in the power and energy sectors, the manufacturing sector, and in private-public partnerships that the continent can explore to accelerate Africa’s speed of regional and economic integration, crucial for economic growth and development.