Africa: Essential Need For Integration

Sixty years ago, some prominent African leaders, in the midst of independence movements, came together in Addis Ababa, (Ethiopia) to seek ways of putting in place a solid foundation for integration. During the historic meeting which marked the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Ghanaian President, Kwame Nkrumah urged “Africa must unite or perish!” Since then, post-colonial thirst for promoting a self-sustained and self-reliant development trajectory has been growing. Many have come to realize that regional integration and solidarity are essential to confront the growing global asymmetries and disparities between developed and developing countries. The idea of integrating African countries and regions had long been promoted by political leaders in speeches, official conferences and formal treaties, although with only limited results on the ground. With the renewed impetus to establish closer economic and political ties among the continent's numerous countries, based on a heightened appreciation of the need for regional integration and a clearer understanding of the reasons for past failures, there are hopes that integration” can be realized. But for the dream to become reality, Africa needs to overcome the numerous armed conflicts on the continent. Most African countries experience conflicts that challenge peace and security. One of such is the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, which caused the death of 6,600 persons in 2014. Also, the war in South Sudan, Western Sahara, Somalia, north of Mali, Central African Republic, Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the insurgency in Maghreb, must end. 
After independence, African leaders envisaged integration as a viable and applicable strategy to unite the continent economically and politically. However, their attempts will not be enough as long as their political and economic policies are dependent on the European Union and USA. In fact, European influence and presence still exists with a new form of colonization very much in place. Africa is considered as the periphery and the European Union as the core. The interference of the Western World in the economic and political scenes of Africa hinders integration as it thwarts most cooperation efforts between different African countries. Another major stumbling block is the great diversity in African countries' sizes, natural resources, levels of development and connections to global markets. Many countries continue to trade most extensively with their former colonial powers by exporting primary commodities countries, and importing finished products from outside the continent.
The record of regional integration in Africa so far has been a sobering one, and many regional groupings are marked by uncoordinated initiatives, political conflicts and low levels of intra-regional trade. Analysts point out, however, that a number of the external and domestic factors that impede African integration in the past have improved in recent years, giving grounds for cautious optimism. Africans have also learned from the failures of past initiatives. As a result, many proponents of integration now pursue a less grandiose and more practical approach. Africa must unite not simply to enhance the continent's weight in global affairs, they say, but also to meet the very real needs of its people. Integration cannot be achieved by relying strictly on political initiatives or focusing narrowly on economic dynamics, as had been the case with previous undertakings. One other major causes of past integration failures have been attributed to the leaders’ non-consultation of their citizens when designing integration strategies and programmes. Because of these, many Africans encounter constant problems in travelling or dealing with people in neighbouring countries. Small-scale manufacturers have difficulty getting the necessary import or export licenses. Traders are routinely frustrated at customs posts. Ordinary travelers often have to pay bribes to get past police checkpoints. African businessmen frequently need to wait 6-8 weeks to get visas to visit other African countries, while citizens of the UK or France can travel to many African ...

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