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Africa’s integration


From the advent of modern Pan- Africanism at the beginning of the 20th century to the launch of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, African integration had always been the ultimate goal; distant, abstract and daunting but inspired.

With the inauguration of the African Union (AU) on July 9 2002, integration has increasingly become the overarching agenda of the AU.

Today, the vision of the AU is stated as: “An integrated, prosperous and inclusive Africa at peace with itself.”

African integration is seen as the most rational agenda as it contributes towards economies of scale, rational utilisation of resources and free movement of people on the continent. The objective of the OAU treaty in June 1991, establishing an African Economic Community, was to promote economic, social and cultural development and the integration of African economies in order to increase economic self-reliance and promote an internal and self-sustained development.

In an era of globalisation, market size can be translated into power. Governments with sufficient market size influence the regulation of globalisation through the use of market power or coercive power. The more diverse the variety of goods produced and consumed in the internal market, the less vulnerable an entity to external pressure or disruptions.

Elements of integration

In promoting African Integration, a number of elements have been put in place.


The first element is the adoption of Pan- Africanism as a philosophy on which to ground Africa’s integration.

Pan-Africanism, as an ideology, encompasses a belief that unity is vital to economic and political progress (Hakin Adi 2007). It is about geopolitics also; the concern with the political unification of Africa and Arabia.

As a philosophy, it represents the aggregation of the historical, cultural, spiritual and artistic legacies of Africans from past times to present. Implicit in this philosophy is the rejection that African traditions are totally inimical to progress and development.

In the late 20th century, Pan-Africanism has emphasised the need for unity in confronting contemporary economic exploitation. In 2001, the AU was called upon to address problems as diverse as the marginalisation of Africa in international affairs, the global economy and disease pandemics on the continent.

The most complete expansion of Pan- Africanism was when Africans decided to end all forms of subservience to foreign masters and confidently asserted that they could control their own interests and desires. It is largely upon this theoretical framework that the AU was anchored (Bingu wa Mutharika 2010).

Open borders

The second element is that of putting in place, legal systems, structures and processes that promote the perception of national boundaries as bridges rather than barriers.

National boundaries of most African countries were drawn on arbitrary and artificial criteria and they cut through nations and nationalities, geographical and ecological systems as well as original kingdoms. OAU took a decision to maintain the colonial boundaries that were demarcated at the Berlin Conference on the partition of Africa in 1885-6. This decision was taken as it was practically impossible to establish what had existed in the pre-colonial times and also to avoid opening the continent to endless boundary conflicts.

Thus, during the first ordinary session of heads of State and government in Cairo in Egypt, in July 1964, the leaders adopted resolution AHG/Res 161(T) on the management of disputes among African States as follows: Solemnly reaffirm the strict respect by all member States of OAU for the principles laid down in paragraph three of Article III of the charter of OAU; solemnly declare that all member States pledge themselves to respect the borders existing on their achievement of national independence.

The AU has upheld the principle of the inviobility of African borders as evidenced in article 4(b) of its Constitutive Act. In June 2007, the African Union Ministers in Charge of border issues adopted a Declaration on the African Union Border Programme and its implementation modalities.

The African Union Border Programme vision is: “A united and integrated Africa with peaceful, open and prosperous borders.”

This it tries to achieve through national standing committees, decentralised border management structures, cross-border implementation of projects and utilisation of resources.

Continental policies

The third element in the integration process is that of policy formulation. The aim is to strengthen the decision and institutional capacities of African governments to formulate and implement coordinated, sound and authentic policies. For a continent that has remained poor despite a mushrooming of extractive industries, the aim of continent wide policy frameworks is to look at how Africa’s integration into the global markets can best serve the objective of transforming the continent’s economies.

The continental policy framework on land, for instance, is aimed at providing a framework that strengthens land rights, enhances productivity and livelihoods and establishes a foundation for popular participation in improved land governance. In the relationship between agriculture, food and security, the question of access to land emerges as a pivotal issue, not least, because of its vital importance to the survival of the poorest in Africa’s rural areas.

The mining policy framework is aimed at integrating the mining sector more coherently and firmly into the continent’s economy and society. It tries to address the fact that, overtime, mining regimes have remained narrowly focused on the direct export of strategic minerals at the expense of Africa’s development.

Peace and security

In a very diverse continent that has borne the brunt of covert ideological wars as well as overt colonial wars, AU integration agenda has put peace and security at its core.

The African Peace and Security Architecture (Apsa) is built around structures, objectives, principles and values as well as decision-making processes relating to prevention, management and resolution of crises and conflicts, post-conflict reconstruction and development in the continent.

Apsa is built from the ground up. Its main pillar is the African Union Peace and Security Council; which is supported in the discharge of its mandate by various structures, namely the continental Early Warning System, the African Stand by Force and the Peace Fund.

The AU has further supported this infrastructure by adopting the principle of “non-indifference,” breaking away from its past policy and practice of “non-intervention” on the continent. Further, the African continent has adopted the policy of zero tolerance to unconstitutional changes of government. In the Tripoli Declaration of August 31 2009, African heads of State and government declared 2010 the Year of Peace and Security on the continent. Apart from accelerating the establishment of a decentralised system of peace promotion and conflict resolution, it used this year to encourage communities to take an active part in maintaining peace.

The peace efforts on the African continent are supported by such institutions as the African Union Commission on Peoples and Human Rights, the African Court on Peoples and Human Rights.

Infrastructure development

Africa is the most disjointed continent. Basing on its colonial architecture, there are hardly major transport infrastructure connecting African countries. What pertains in most countries are roads that end at national border posts, what Bingu wa Mutharika, late Malawi’s president, called “Highways to Nowhere”.

These do not contribute towards movement of goods and services between countries. Majority of Africans have to go through Europe to communicate to other African countries by air, telecommunications or post. The significant deficit in infrastructure has resulted in increased production and transaction costs, reduced competitiveness of businesses and subsequently a reduced rate of economic and social development on the continent.

The 12th Assembly of Heads of State and Government through Declaration Assembly AU/Decl. 1. (XII) requested the African Union Commission to formulate the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (Pida) which was officially launched in Kampala, Uganda, in July 2010. Pida is a flagship programme aimed at the development of regional and continental infrastructure (energy, transport, information and communications technology [ICT] and trans-boundary Water resources). It is hoped to promote improved access to integrated regional and continental infrastructure networks and services.

Pida was based on the assumption that average economic growth rate for African countries would be six percent a year between 2010 and 2040, driven by a surging population, increased levels of education and technology absorption. This growth implied that over the 30 years to 2040, the gross domestic product (GDP) of African countries would have multiplied six fold, and the average per capita income would have risen above $10,000 for all countries. This continuing growth and prosperity would ultimately swell the demand for infrastructure. It was extrapolated that power demand would increase from 590 terawatt (TWH hours) in 2010 to more than 3,100 TWH in 2040. This would require a rise of installed power generation from 125 gigawatts (GW) to 700 GW in 2040.

Transport volumes were estimated to increase six to eight times. ICT demand was estimated to rise from 300 gigabytes per second in 2009 to 6,000 gigabytes per second by 2018.

That African countries do not trade much with each other has meant that they have been unable to fully harness the synergies and complementarities of their economics. The African market remains highly fragmented while there have been some successes in eliminating tariffs within regional communities, there is an urgent need to address non-tariff and regulatory barriers that can facilitate movement of goods, services, people and capital across borders. Even discounting informal trade, intra-African trade is very low at less than 15 percent. Over 80 percent of Africa’s exports are shipped overseas. The action plan for boosting intra-African trade includes trade facilitation, trade policy, productive capacities, trade-related infrastructure, trade finance, trade information and Factor Market Integration.

Governments have decided to pursue economic integration by starting at the regional level and working their way up, merging all the regional trading blocs into an African Free Trade Area. The African Union Summit of January 2011, endorsed the fast-tracking of the establishment of a Pan-African Free Trade Area. The need to fast-track African Trade led to the formation of the EAC-Comesa- Sadc Tripartite Free Trade Agreement. The Tripartite Free Trade Agreement, signed on June 10 2015 was an intermediary step in Africa’s pursuit of a free-trade zone.

The 44 countries that signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Area on March 21 2018, represent 80 percent of AU membership, 74 .percent of the continental GDP and a combined population of 737,744,820 million. If the AfCFTA countries were one country, it would be the fourth largest economy in the world with a combined GDP of more than $3,138,816,000,000.


The African integration agenda is the most overarching agenda of AU. It is grounded into an authentic philosophy, Pan-Africanism. It is consistent with modern forms of political and economic organisation. An integrated Africa will be a more efficient, more holistic, more assertive and most likely more stable.

Malawi is an active advocate of the African integration agenda. It has demonstrated this by being party to the relevant instruments and contributing actively to such elements as peacekeeping, boundary re-affirmations and infrastructure connectivity. It has championed a number of supportive themes on the continent. It is up to every citizen and institution in Malawi to adapt and take advantage of African Integration. It is clearly in the long-term interests of all progressive nations, willing to partner with Africa, to help it integrate.

With changing demographics and geopolitical environment, the African integration momentum may be slow and difficult but clearly unstoppable.

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