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. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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)

5. International migration in the Southern African region: a system approach to analysing drivers and their relations with markets and policies

Author: Gabriel Tati & Pamela Wendy James, Department of Statistics and Population Studies, University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

The Southern Africa generally comprises of the following countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi, Botswana, Swaziland, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, and Mauritius. Beyond some common features (migration of proximity, circulatory migration, influxes and repatriation of refugees), one of the question arising is whether this sub-regional grouping constitutes a homogenous migratory system or is made up of several nation-based migratory system within the Africa continent. The answer suggested by historical and contemporary data at hand is incontestably on the one hand a juxtaposition of systems centred around the nation formation and on the other hand a regional system driven by South by South Africa which attractiveness is expanding over the rest of the continent.  The study aims to analyse the changing patterns of international migration within the Southern African Region. Topics surrounding migration are rapidly gaining importance, especially in the context of regional integration. Past research works have placed a major interest on South African immigration neglecting or rather paying less attention to the migration within other countries in the Southern African region. This study will include all the migration trends across the countries in Southern Africa while discussing both historical and contemporary migration trends within Southern Africa. The study interrogates the extent to which countries are sending countries exclusively or are receiving countries exclusively or both. There has been a transition in the inflows and outflows of migration in Southern Africa. In the analysis the study also highlights changes in the demographic compositions of migrants, changes in their destinations and changes in their countries of origin. In the study the following questions are investigated: What are the emerging migration systems within the Southern African region? What are the dominant migration linkages within the Southern African region? How do countries compare with one another in terms of being the attraction of migrants or supply of migrants within the region compared to the rest of the world? The study makes the assumption that there are different migration systems among the countries in the Southern African region. Secondly, there are countries that are more attractive to migrants within the region than migrants outside of the region. Also, there are more migrants from Africa in each of the Southern African countries than from the rest of the world.

6. Contemporary Forms and Perspectives on Migration in the Regional Integration of Central Africa

Author: Germain Ngoie Tshibambe, Department of International Relations, Faculty of Social, Political and Administrative Sciences, University of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Human landscape in the Central Africa’s region is complex. Within boundaries and across boundaries human mobility creates and recreates political, social and cultural configurations which are as such challenges States are bound to face. From the case of the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, political instability pushes population to run from areas of conflict and to raise the challenge of refugees. This fact renders this region one among the most war-torn spaces. Beyond this forced migration form, we find also the voluntary migration. Voluntary migration is the most dynamic and needs to be governed –let us use the term ‘governanced’ in order to make this region ‘a space of peace and of development’. It needs to notice that after the phase of States being alone to manage migration according to a ‘nationalistic’ perspective, there is then a ‘regional and community phase’ which gives importance to RECs that become to be involved in migration management. The first perspective is prone to control, to deter migration whereas the latter perspective is the one pleading for a free movement of people. Anyway, this region has many international organizations among which we can consider three: the Economic Community of Central Africa’s States (ECCAS) with ten states; the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (ECGLC) with three countries, and the Economic and Monetary Community of the Central Africa with six countries. At this level, this paper aims at grasping the dynamic sustaining migration trends in this region having a view on understanding the drivers of this migration; secondly at analyzing the actions and reactions undertaken through the Regional Economic Communities in so far as these RECs come to be bound to envision a regional response to tackle migration issues. Data for this paper come from field research undertaken in the context of a research commissioned by the ACP-UE Migration Observatory in 2014 and updated data gathered through documentary research.  

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