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A Political Economy of African Regionalisms

An Overview of Asymmetrical Development

Wil Hout and M. A.M. Salih

This book analyses the main factors influencing the political economy of Africa’s asymmetrical regionalism, focusing on regional and sub-regional trade, investment, movement of people, goods and services. It pays particular attention to the way in which regional and sub-regional dynamics are impacted by extra-regional relations, such with the EU, US, China and India. Because African regionalism is influenced not only by economic processes, peace and security are also analysed as important factors shaping both regional and sub-regional relations and dynamics.
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Chapter 5: Intra-African trade: aspirations, realities and asymmetries

Wil Hout and M. A.M. Salih


Chapter 5 contains an analysis of intra-African trade. The chapter emphasizes that African regionalism, ever since the period of decolonization, has been aiming at strengthening the economic position of African economies, and making the countries and regions more self-reliant. The Abuja Treaty of 1991 aimed to establish an African Economic Community, comprising all existing regional arrangements. This aim was later subsumed in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which was signed in 2018. The analysis of actual intra-African trade patterns shows that the potential of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to generate intra-regional or intra-African trade is limited to between 10 and 20 per cent of all trade. The chapter concludes by looking at the future of the RECs within the AfCFTA, and argues that their position is relatively unclear.

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