Panel 12

Regional integration amid changing global balances: Considering the prospects for an African Economic Community

Panel organiser: Christopher Changwe Nshimbi, Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn), Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, South Africa.


This panel seeks to enhance the understanding, application and progress of regional integration as a strategy for socioeconomic transformation and development in Africa; with a particular focus on borders and human mobility. Undeterred by the temporary backlash against mega-regional trade agreements in Europe, Asia-Pacific and America, Africa is proceeding with plans to establish a continental free trade area (CFTA) and an African Economic Community (AEC) by 2028. It has firmed up this commitment through rounds of CFTA negotiations since 2015. A well-designed and implemented African FTA promises great gains. To set African countries on a path of transformation from exporters of commodities to producers of manufactured goods. However, two issues seem to hamper progress towards a fully-fledged and functional AEC. First, nation-state borders founded on the principles of delimitation drawn at the 1884-85 Berlin Conference and the Westphalian state model. Despite efforts to integrate, the respective members of the African Union (AU) are simultaneously determined to strengthen the same colonial boundaries that separate them, as they consolidate their rule and assert the sovereignty of their states. Second, in enforcing the borders, African countries maintain more restrictive migration regimes against one another but more open to the outside world. This seriously challenges and frustrates integration and intracontinental mobilites; ignoring the fact that migration and cross-border movements have historically characterized African populations, especially in contiguous border areas of African nation-states. Can Africa learn from other world regions which have negotiated FTAs to ensure inclusive processes of integration? What is the purpose of (post)colonial borders, when Africa seeks integration? Does the removal of obstacles to free movement of persons (besides capital, goods and services) provide a viable approach to the transformation of socioeconomic structures and establishment of a sustainable economic base in Africa? What promise do circulations and exchanges of knowledge and ideas hold for Africa? Can the understanding, application and progress of integration as an approach to Africa’s development live up to expectation?

Approved abstracts panel 12

1. Cultural Integration Of East African People

Author: Kiagho B. Kilonzo, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

A contribution of culture towards regional integrations has not been given a priority in East Africa and Africa as a whole. Although, regional integration in the East African Community begins during the colonial era and passed through challenges in different phases, and with the fact that East Africa is the home of some of the oldest visual arts in the world, no leader has thought of culture in the aspect of visual art as important means to integrate people. In its totality, culture assumed centrality in the liberation of colonized people, and several examples attest to this fact: the cultural ideology of Negritude in Senegal during the administration of Leopold Sedar Senghor is one case in point. Nkrumah’s idea of “African Personality” proves that culture has been part of human development. Mobutu’s policy of “authenticity” as expressed in dress, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s introduction of the Ministry of Culture in independent Tanganyika, and Amilcar Cabral’s views on liberation and culture provide strong evidences which suggest that culture is an integral part of human development. As such, art deserves promotion within the Community, not only as a way to encourage continuation of the prehistoric rock art legacy but also to integrate people of East Africa.

This paper is based on the experience gained from the art tour, which was done by the East Africa Art Biennale Association (EASTAFAB) team to stage art exhibitions in the capitals of the East African states, purposely to further regional integration by reaching people on the grass-root through culture. The EASTAFAB had thought to come up with this kind of project, which would be in-line with the vision and mission of the East African community of integrating the East African nations. The EASTAFAB wanted to make a meaningful contact between artists and the people of East Africa and beyond.


2. Negotiating Asylum Seeking In Kakuma Kenya

Author: Felistus Kinyanjui, Kenyatta University, Department of Conflict, Peace and Strategic Studies, Nairobi, Kenya.

Population movements have been on the rise in the last twenty years. The last seven years have however witnessed an escalation in mobility particularly towards the West.  The Syrian crisis that has lasted since 2011 has been a major contributor to this mobility as well as the turbulences experienced in the Middle East. The shift in focus towards the new waves of migration may blur the international community from seeing what has been protracted mobility in parts of Africa. The Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes are major centres of African mobilities. This paper provides nuanced perspectives on South Sudanese desperate migrants who end up in both camps as well as contested urban spaces in Kenya. Kenya’s policy of encampment leaves out some migrants who live in squalid states in the informal settlements in Nairobi and its environs. We focus on the migrants hat have found their way into the arid lands of Kakuma making it a home in the few years.  23,288 people were registered as new arrivals in Kakuma refugee camp in 2017. Majority coming from South Sudan, Somalia D.R Congo, Burundi and Ethiopia in that order.  The asylum seekers grapple with harassment from security agencies, hostility from the host community, internal wrangles among clans of the asylum seekers, animosity from asylum seekers of different nationalities and a policy framework that is strict on registration and encampment.  For children the risks and vulnerabilities are more other than loss of childhood, schooling, traumatic exposure, sexual exploitation and separation from families stare them in the face. This notwithstanding human resilience drives the mobilities and sustains through untoward suffering.  To help them cope are humanitarian resistance, remittances from diaspora and inbuilt social capital that is unraveled yet ought to be understood. To dissect the realities of these mobilities we attempt to address the distinctions amongst them in regard to resources, connections, gender as well as clan affiliations and how these impact their daily lives. Local narratives and how they reproduce themselves are given consideration in this study. We project into ways that the local communities and humanitarian agencies, currently doing what is possible can enrich the lives of the mobilities to advance from bare survival to living in acceptable conditions. In the spirit of universalism  advocated by the HDR of 2017 no one should be left behind whether they are the migrant children, the stateless or ones forcefully displaced by political violence and turbulence he world is replete with.  Migrants and refugees are vulnerable in host countries, and national actions are needed to address the new nature of migration and its evolution. Countries should pass laws that protect refugees, particularly women and children, a big part of the refugee population and the main victims. Transit and destination countries should provide essential public goods in catering to the displaced, such as schooling refugee children. And destination countries should formulate temporary work policies and provisions for refugees. In the absence of these South Sudan mobilities produce and reproduce themselves in ingenuous ways and survive to be transmitted to Western metropoles, secure an education and rise to become champions in the future of not only South Sudan but a globalized world.

3. Basotho miners and zama-zama in disused commercial gold mines in Gauteng Province, South Africa

Authors: Esther Makhetha & Peliwe Mnguni, UNISA Graduate School of Business Leadership, University of South Africa.
E-mail: and

For a long time in the industrial configuration of the region, many South African neighbouring countries, have been popularly known as the labour reserve economies for South African mines – as well as industries. However, after the 1990s, employment opportunities of many in the mines started to decline as many miners were retrenched. This led to declining means of livelihoods for many rural households in the region. The rural production shifted towards informal income activities that include zama-zama, illegal mining. The significance of zama-zama mining has increased, and most of the illegal miners are unemployed South Africans, and those from the neighbouring countries such as Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. With these groups coming together to work on disused gold mines, their interactions are often marred with conflicts, violence and killings in some cases. Looking at the case study of Basotho illegal miners, the paper explores the relationship between conflict, mobility, turf wars, and violence in the disused gold mines in Gauteng province. The paper further demonstrates the conflicts between different groups of Basotho illegal miners in underground disused mines in a foreign country, South Africa. This conceptual article draws from extant literature and researchers’ observations and experience in the study of unlicensed artisanal mining in Lesotho.

Keywords: Basotho miners, conflicts, labour reserve economy, mobility, turf wars, violence.


4. Intra-African Trade And Investments: Trends, Challenges And Opportunities Of Economic Integration In Africa

Author: Kimotho Antony Musau, University of Nairobi, Kenya.

The study of integration in Africa has been a subject of research over the years especially the study of the various individual trading blocs. The continent has a number of regional economic blocs focusing on specific interests within those regions and this is where most research has concentrated leaving a gap on the continental scope of things. Less is known about the recent trends in intra-Africa trade and investment as a continent and the concept of globalization and a borderless Africa. The new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) initiative of the African Union (AU) will be one of the world’s largest free-trade areas in terms of the number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people and over $4 trillion in combined consumer and business spending if all 55 countries join. Africa's imports of finished goods and machinery from developed countries are very high and so are imports by individual countries including commodities and agricultural products that can readily be produced or sourced from fellow African nations. This study aims to focus on the trends of trade and investments within Africa since the time of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), to the period under the African Union (AU) and to the most recent African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) under the AU. Further, we will interrogate the challenges of trade and investment within Africa, the opportunities that exist and their impact if seized. Lessons shall be drawn from practices across the world especially from developed continents that have huge success in intra trade and investments. The aspect of these comparisons and recommendations shall be geared towards customized solutions for Africa due to the unique aspects and level of development in the continent. This will address policy and operational weaknesses towards recommending areas of improvement for a better Africa.

5. Informality, cross-border mobility and regional integration in southern Africa: Do we need to worry?

Author: Daniel Tevera, Department of Geography, Environmental Studies and Tourism, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa.

This paper uses a ‘migration’ lens to help us think about the connections between informality, cross-border mobility and regional integration in southern Africa. Drawing on theoretical and policy discussions of borders, migration and regional integration, this paper explores the various representations of borders as spaces that are both welcoming and unwelcoming. This paper argues that despite the African Union’s integration ideals and the globalisation juggernaut, many African borders have remained divisionary ‘channels’ that continue to hinder cross border mobility and connectivity. In southern Africa the increasingly fortified borders are producing geographies of inclusion and exclusion that have not been given adequate scholarly and policy attention. This paper attempts to probe into how these processes of inclusion and exclusion both allow and hinder the mobility of people and the flow of goods across national borders. Clearly, there is a tension between the various regional policy frameworks for greater openness of borders and the border securitisation initiatives by the state. This calls for novel analyses of cross-border mobility that focus on how the material dynamics of mobility continue to be shaped by solidifying layers of institutional interventions, geopolitics of homeland ‘security’ and politics of identity and difference. We also need to question states perspectives on borders and to imagine new lenses to look at the borders-mobility-regional integration question that offer grounded reflections on the disjuncture between the ideal of regional economic groupings and the reality of increased national border securitization.

Keywords: Migrants; migration drivers; mobility; borders; xenophobia; SADC; African Union (AU)

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