The strongest argument for the AU is that it would reinvigorate Africa and speed up its integration providing a single voice for Africa to bargain with. It remains to be seen whether unity develops in line with perceived interests or as dictated by external factors. This desire for unity and eventually integration can be appreciated for different reasons.
The first is the belief that integration will enable the continent to effectively meet the challenges of globalisation. Within this framework, integration allows Africa to bargain more effectively on the global scene. The result is a better position for Africa in the distribution of global economic benefits even if it controls only 2% of the global economy.
The second is Africa’s concern not to be left behind in the global trend of regional integration, like the expansion of the EU, NAFTA, ASEAN, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum, to name a few. These are examples of the growing global trend towards economic regionalism.
The third reason to desire African integration hinges on the belief that Africa needs to come together to resist Western influence and measures that are not in Africa’s interests.
These reasons highlight African integration as a response to global needs. It would be like replicating European integration in Africa. The main problem with this integration is that responses to present needs imply a non-anticipative attitude towards development efforts in Africa. By extension, such responses also mean that policies do not concretely address the issues at stake. Most importantly, the advantage of the initial policy of integration gives credence to sub-regional groupings in line with the pan-African ‘gradualist’ theory.
The AU and the proposed United States of Africa are regional integration projects. However, integration will not take place without powerful leadership. As a fundamental flaw, pan-Africanism does not consider power in its call to unite. It only explores similarities of origin and experience. Unfortunately, the three main powerhouses in Africa – South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt – are ‘gradualists’ in the African integration project. If regional integration is to be understood in terms of the interest and strategies of regional powers, the African integration project is still in the planning stage. (M.T.I.)