The legal framework for African economic integration : a critical appraisal.
The question is whether the legal framework for economic co-operation and
integration in Africa, is suitable for achieving the aim of building the African
Economic Community [AEC]. Economic integration, in leading to large markets
and a supporting infrastructure, is a proper development strategy implementing
which will depend on the efficacy of an enabling legal framework and a supportive
multilateral trade system.
The AEC is an integral part of the Organisation of African Unity [OAU]. Though
largely a political organisation since inception way back in 1963, the OAU's
agenda is increasingly economic, with the completion of de-colonisation, and will
coincide with that of the AEC which is an economic and monetary union to be
established in six stages through a merger of the regional economic communities
[REC5]. To facilitate this merger, the aims, structure of organs and the entire legal
framework of the RECs, need to be harmonised at the continental level.
The structure for the AEC and the RECs gives pre-eminence to political organs,
relegating the technical to making recommendations. In view of obstacles to
African integration, such as inconsistent political will, effective technical organs
ought to take charge of implementing the constitutive instruments and
The AEC and RECs comply with the WTO Agreement. However, Article XXIV and
Part IV of GATT need a proper interpretation, to guide parties. The Enabling Clause, dealing with regional trade agreements [RTAs] among developing
countries, is the proper regime for notifying African RTAs; but as Africa is poised
to develop and as the AEC is of indefinite duration, it is prudent that the RTAs
comply with Article XXIV also.
To develop a suitable legal framework, the protocols need to be drafted and
adopted, and all the organs established. The constitutive instruments for the RECs
need to be revised and implemented so that the stages for establishing the AEC
are followed. An involved civil society and effective rules can improve prospects
for the AEC.