Regionalism in East Africa

Start date: 8 January, 2012 End date: 26 February, 2012 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A15175 Countries: East Africa Institutions: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Grant recipient: Adam Hyttel Spliid Total grant: 15,000 DKK


It is a commonly held view that regionalism of the East African Community (EAC) is essentially driven by the political and ideological motives of opportunistic statesmen. In contrast, this thesis asserts that even if political and ideological considerations plays an important role, practical EAC market integration is most effectively analysed as a “political economy” phenomenon shaped by various national and international forces and by domestic, and to some extent regional, organised economic special-interests influenced by factors in the political system. Accordingly, this thesis demonstrates through application of a modified rationalist neofunctionalist framework how a number of structural factors favourable to regional integration - according to the neofunctionalist logic - in fact covariate with the evolving EAC. The resulting regional market liberalisation implied increasing market transactions which worked as positive feedback and in turn enhanced the business interests in the liberalised regional market. This creates incentives for organised interests to advocate for sustaining and advancing market integration at regional level in order to safeguard gains and secure increasing returns. This is particularly important in the East African region which historically has been subject to arbitrary and inconsistent foreign economic policy due to the neopatrimonial character of the state-society relationship. As market integration most appropriately considered an ongoing political and reversible process in which the economic and political systems affect each other mutually, positive feedback and pro-integration advocacy is critical for regionalism to be sustained and advance.
The neofunctionalist theoretical framework seems appropriate for the purpose and informs and structures the analysis of EAC regionalism fruitfully. Nonetheless, it also has some natural weaknesses as the case study research framework based on simple pattern matching, for example, cannot solve indeterminacy and determine strength of the association. In this respect it would be intriguing to carry out process tracing studies to examine if the causal mechanisms underpinning the model actual works as intended, and just as much undertake quantitative studies to examine the generalisability of the findings. As such EAC regionalism constitutes a fantastic subject for further research.