Thursday, August 5, 2010

Understanding the Relationship between the AU, Africa's RECs and the African Economic Community(AEC)


If you are new to this blog, you might not know that I like to go on a bit...especially about regional integration;-))

Seriously, in my estimation, it is a fascinating discipline of international relations(IR) that's ever-so-ramifying, and ever-so-complex.

It's ramifying because of the various dimensions to it (c.f. the five different kinds of regional integration that exist, and the implications they have for the development of any kind of integration project), and complex because the more answers you get, the more questions arise!

Take the case of the African Union, the African Economic Community, and the Regional Economic Communities.

So we already know of the African Union.

This year, it celebrates its year of Peace and Security. It has an interesting website on, where it is counting down to 21 September--the day of Peace. We also know that Uganda suffered a carnage on the last day of the FIFA 2010 World Cup because Al-Shabaab wanted to punish that country for sending troops to Somalia for the AU's Mission in Somalia

Last week I touched on the "rationalisation of the Regional Economic Communities". where I offered a brief historical survey as to how and why Africa, in its discourse on integration, likes to talk about "regional economic communities". The key year to remember is 2006--an important year for discussions and implementations on RECs.

What about the African Economic Community? (AEC)

I'd be happy to hear what you know of it--or don't.

I'm always operating from the assumption that what I offer here is assisting in building up the knowledge of someone, somewhere. So give me my soapbox, please!

Truth be told, the AEC is already in operation, and has been since May 1994. The Treaty establishing the AEC was signed in ABuja, Nigeria in 1991. The AEC offers a framework for continental integration. The RECS are mere building blocs towards the full realisation of the AEC.

As regards the AEC, it has set no less than SIX stages to be fully operational. Starting from 1994, it has allowed 34 years for FULL political and economic integration. That makes 2018/2019 an important year. So, if we're lucky, by 2020, the African Economic Community should be fully operational, with the 8 AU-recognised RECs possibly subsumed under regions of North, Central, East, South and West African Economic Communities.

I believe the reality to be very different by 2020. As RECs gain prestige in their comparative advantages of peace/conflict management; infrastructure, etc, they would be wont to maintain themselves as legal personalities in their own right, and not necessarily want to subsume their staff and competencies under one sub-regional economic community!

If what Ghanaian lawyer and academic Dr.Richard Frimpong Oppong says is anything to go by in his fantastic piece "the african union, the african economic community and africa's regional economic communities", given that the African Economic Community does not have a legal personality--that is to say that it has rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities, and liabilities under law, just as natural persons (humans) do--it already makes the framework upon which the African Union operates rather shaky and tenuous.

This is because while there is a protocol establishing the relationship between the AEC and RECs, "to what extent are the RECs bound by decisions of the AEC? Since the RECs, which have their own legal personality, are not parties to the AEC Treaty, what is the legal basis for assuming that they will merge and form the African Economic Community?"[italics are that of Dr.Oppong in his piece on p.94]

In my opinion, this is the crux of his piece--and a very important one at that too. Even more important is "rationalising", if you will, the relationship between the AEC and RECs as they progress and advance in their development. This other important point ought not to be lost on us mere mortals and students as we cogitate over the future of African integration and where the AU is going.

In my view, Dr.Oppong has opened up a whole new can of worms around African integration--some of which I will for sure be touching on over the next couple of weeks.

Can you blame me when I continue to search for the elusive quest of a critical and progressive look at regional integration, and still claim that it is ever-ramifying?


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