The Afrikan Economic Community (AEC): A Step towards Achieving the Pan-Afrikan Ideal

  • Bakut tswah Bakut


As we enter the twenty-first century, discourses on globalisation versus nationalism permeate all areas of political studies. Relevant as the debate is to Afrika, the continent remains an insignificant player in the global economy, hence its exclusion from the debate. While globalisation has increasingly brought into question the relevance of the state system in the developed world, Afrikan governments fail to see the writing on the wall as the new phase of political administrative system compatible with the developments of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries emerges. Afrikan governments are still holding on tightly to the obsolescent state system even though it is quite clear that it has failed in Afrika (partly because of it historical origins and the nature of Afrikan societies). Thus, while the developed world is advancing with technology, building trading blocs and economic unions, Afrikan states are still struggling to create states to transcend or incorporate national (ethnic) loyalties. Since the loyalties of individuals to tribal or national groups (arguably) is the nature of interactions in Afrikan societies, Afrikan governments are burdened with internal divisions, which hinder their attempts to create inclusive states. The sentiment of ‘nationalism’ since decolonisation is generally expressed within the tribal or national aggregations rather than the states.2 Such nationalism is based on the search for socioeconomic-cum-politicocultural interests of individuals, and differs from its traditional form (defined in relation to states).


Member State Economic Community Mutual Interest Functional Agency Continental Level 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    See C. A. Diop (1987) Precolonial Black Africa (trans. Harold Salemson) (New York: Lawrence Hill Books). Diop has outlined the state system of pre-colonial Black Africa as being highly structured, based on the division of labour/responsibilities. His work contests the ‘tribal system’ assumptions of Western scholars and argues that the retribalisation of Africa was because of the climate of insecurity brought about by the conquest of the Afrikan states, first by Islam and later by the Europeans. See also A. D. Smith (1991) Ethnic Origin of Nations (Oxford: Basil Blackwell); J. Reader (1998) Africa: A Biography of the Continent (Harmondsworth: Penguin) and S. P. Blier (1998); Royal Arts of Africa: The Majesty of Form (London: Lawrence King).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    D. Mitrany (1966) A Working Peace System (Chicago: Quadrangle).Google Scholar
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    The Abuja Treaty (1991) establishing the African Economic Community (AEC).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    See T. M. Shaw (1998) ‘African Renaissance/African Alliance: Towards New Regionalism and New Realism in the Great Lakes at the Start of the Twenty-first Century’, and B. Oden, ‘The Not So New Regionalism in Africa’, both in Politeia, vol. 17, no. 3.Google Scholar
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    A quotation from J. S. Nye (1966) Pan-Africanism and the East African Integration (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press), p. 14. See also S. Touval (1972), The Boundary Politics of Independent Africa (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press), pp. 21, 27. Touval argued that nationalism in Afrika was usually around the population of a given colonial territory, mainly ethnically heterogeneous in the pursuit of political independence.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., Chapter iii, Article 4.Google Scholar
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    This inequality, by implication, means that the claim of the ‘divine right’ of the monarch has been transferred to the ‘absolute state’ working against cultures and customs, which discount such ‘divine’ concepts in politics. See D. Mitrany (1993) The Progress of International Government (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press), pp. 47, 71.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., pp. 53, 62.Google Scholar
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    The impracticability of ‘surrendering’ sovereignty (power) by the political elites stems from their individualistic interests. By the virtue of their positions in the polity, they are able to achieve personal benefits, which will be lost, if they surrender the sovereignty of the polity.Google Scholar
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    Dan Otchere is a development economist at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. He seems to be attracting much attention and respect from Afrikan development theorists.Google Scholar
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    Touval, The Boundary Politics of Independent Africa, pp. 27–8, 31. The concept of ‘nation’ or ‘state’ has no meaning or relevance to Afrikan people, except the elites. The removal of the ‘sphere of influence’ imposed by the colonialists only awakened the deep-seated sense of particularity of the people. Although the situation led to disunity, Afrikan leaders found it more convenient and beneficial to pursue their objectives under the banner of territorial interest: states. This was one of the reasons why the Nkrumahist African Union Government failed. See also C. Hoskynes (1967). ‘Pan-Africanism and Integration: The Situation in 1957’, in A. Hazlewood (ed.), African Integration and Disintegration: Case Studies in Economic and Political Union (London: Oxford University Press), p. 354.Google Scholar
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    Scholars of Afrikan historical development generally agree that the continent was organised as far back as this period. The general conclusion is based on the military exploits of Piankhi, a Nuban (Nubian from present Sudan) as the Par-Ao (Pharaoh) of both Upper and Lower ‘Egypt’. Piankhi defeated Osorkon, the ‘Libyan’ king of lower ‘Egypt’, who sought to impose his son on the Thebetan (Upper Egypt) Priesthood as High Priest. He also defeated Tefknakht, king of Heracleopolis, and Nimrod of Hermopolis, the two powerful kings of his time, who posed a challenge to the ‘Egyptian’ theolo-political civilisation. Piankhi instituted the twenty-seventh dynasty in 702 BCE. Some scholars, however, insist on an earlier date for Afrika’s civilisation. They maintained that Afrikan historical development could be traced from 4500 BCE. See C. A. Diop (1974) The African Origin of Civilisation: Myth or Reality, trans, and ed. Mercer Cook (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books); C. Williams (1987) The Destruction of Black Civilisation; Great Issues of a Race from 4500 BC to 2000 AD, (Chicago: Third World Press); W. Rodney (1982) How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Washington, DC: Howard University Press); G. P. Murdock (1959) Africa: Its Peoples and Their Cultural History (New York: McGraw-Hill). See also M. K. Asante and K. W. Asante (eds) (1993) African Culture: The Rhythms of Unity (Trenta NJ: Africa World Press). Other interesting books are A. De Selincount (1954) The Histories of Herodotus (Harmondsworth: Penguin); C. H. Oldfather (1967) Diodorus of Sicily (London: Heinemann); J. H. Greenberg (1963) The Languages of Africa (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press). This is by no means a complete list of literature on Afrikan ancient historical development.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    The drawing of boundaries by colonial administrators only took cognisance of the metropoles, disregarding the particular circumstances of the people, in terms of their socioeconomic or politicocultural aggregations. Thus the socioeconomic units that played a very important role in the inter-relations of the Afrikan people, were destroyed. These deliberate policies of ‘divide and rule’ or ‘assimilation’, weakened the foundation of Afrikan socioeconomic systems and hindered their growth or further development. See S. Touval, The Boundary Politics of Independent Africa, pp. 4, 21. Also, J. Chipman (1989) French Power in Africa (Oxford: Basil Blackwell), p. 227; and C. Hoskynes, ‘Pan-Africanism and Disintegration’, pp. 357, 358.Google Scholar
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    While socioeconomic activities in modern Afrikan cities are conducted on the basis of individualistic interest, the opposite is the case in rural areas. People in rural areas tend to conduct their socioeconomic activities on the basis of their relationship to other members of the community, or the neighbouring community, which may be in another state.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 118.Google Scholar
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    Mitrany, ‘The Prospect of Integration…’, p. 7.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 31.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., pp. 33–5.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., pp. 41–3.Google Scholar
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    Popular democracy entails the conduct of elections, to choose the representatives of people through political parties/groups. The principle of democracy, however, does not restrict the choice of representations to the political parties/groups arrangement. The pattern of ‘electing’ representatives does not constitute the democratic process. Democracy entails the ability of individuals to choose representatives within a collective, regardless of the system in use. Thus the aim of the continental universal suffrage of democracy should be to encourage people to choose their representatives, and not the formation of political parties or groups.Google Scholar
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    Mitrany, ‘The Prospect of Integration…’, pp. 46–50.Google Scholar
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    I. L. Claude Jr. (1964) Swords into Ploughshares, 3rd edn (University of London Press), pp. 353–75.Google Scholar
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    Mitrany, A Working Peace System.Google Scholar
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    A. J. R. Groom, and A. Heraclides (1985) ‘Integration and Disintegration’, in M. Light and A. J. R. Groom (eds), International Relations: A Handbook of Current Theory, (London: Pinter), pp. 178–9. See also A. J. R. Groom (1994) ‘Neofunctionalism: A Case of Mistaken Identity’, in B. F. Nelsen and A. Stubb, C-G, (eds), The European Union (Boulder, Col.; London: Lynne Rienner).Google Scholar
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    Nye, Pan-Africanism.Google Scholar
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    E. Anim et al. (1990) ‘Born-again Diplomacy’, Newswatch Magazine (Nigeria), vol. 12, no. 16, 29 October, pp. 16–20.Google Scholar
  35. 36.
    See AEC Treaty, 1991.Google Scholar
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    Touval, The Boundary Politics of Independent Africa.Google Scholar

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© Bakut tswah Bakut 2000

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  • Bakut tswah Bakut

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