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What works and why?- a new study supporting regional cooperation and integration in Africa.

Supporting regional cooperation and integration in Africa- What works and why? A new study by Fredrik Soderbaum and Therese Brolin looks at “What works and why?” in supporting regional cooperation and integration in Africa. Quoting several papers by ECDPM, the study recommends donors to expand their focus from state-led and top-down regional organisations to non-state actors and more flexible collaboration mechanisms, ensuring African ownership.

At the beginning of this millennium, the Economist wrote about Africa as “the hopeless continent”. When the same magazine in its
December 2011 edition spoke of “Africa rising” and “the hopeful continent – where the sun shines bright”, this reflected the beginning
of a much more positive buzz about Africa that hadn’t previously been seen for some time. The buzz may still be there, but is slowly petering out into more sober analysis. At the height of booming commodity prices, seven of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies were in Africa. Today, with oil prices plummeting and commodity prices far from their peaks, there are still three African countries on that list.

Africa is, however, also home to the largest number of low-income countries. Many of these are categorised as ‘fragile’. Undoubtedly,
many challenges remain. Many of the countries are rather small, have a limited consumer base and weak institutions. In order to promote growth and stability, African leaders have placed a lot of hope in regional solutions that encourage e.g. inter- and intra-regional trade, support peace and stability, and more broadly facilitate interactions between nations and their people.

At a policy level the centre of regional integration is the African Union (AU), and the regional economic communities (RECs), with agencies such as the African Development Bank supporting implementation.

Being ‘Africanowned’ institutions they have often become the preferred partners for donors seeking to promote regional cooperation and integration.