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This House believes the integration of Africa through the African Union can succeed
This House believes the integration of Africa through the African Union can succeed
In July 2002, the fifty-three members of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) disbanded that organization and inaugurated the African Union (AU). The goal of the AU is to create an international organization similar to the European Union. The OAU itself says its objectives are “to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid; to promote unity and solidarity among African States; to coordinate and intensify cooperation for development; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States and to promote international cooperation within the framework of the United Nations.” It is to have a central bank, to be fully functioning by 2028, and a shared currency. Already there is a Pan-African parliament, an African Court of Justice and an African "peace and security council" has been created.
The AU is, in part, the brainchild of Libya’s now deposed Muammar Qaddafi who withdrew Libya from the Arab League. Qaddafi regularly called for a United States of Africa, possibly with him as its first President. He had also suggested a unified African gold dinar as a currency with the intention that it would be based on gold rather than the US dollar. Qaddafi’s downfall does not leave the idea entirely without support as other states such as Eritrea, Ghana, Senegal and Zimbabwe has shown interest. Despite Qaddafi leaving the scene the idea of a “united and integrated” Africa has not been abandoned, although it is likely the original timescale of it being done by 2025 will likely have to be extended.
|Points For||Points Against|
|The AU can bring peace to the continent||Africa prizes sovereignty|
|There is already some African integration that can be built on.||African international organisations do not have a history of effectiveness|
|Integration will fix the problem of borders||The AU faces immense challenges that did not affect Europe|
|The role of leaders will prevent success|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
The AU can bring peace to the continent
Integration can bring peace; just like the European Union has in Europe. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the UN has slowly changed its relationship with regional organizations. It is more willing and through its agenda for peace has been demanding that regional organizations be responsible for peacekeeping, state-building and humanitarian assistance. Part of the reasoning is that these states are more sensitive to local customs, concerns and diplomacy. Already, the African Union has taken on several peacekeeping initiatives; first in Burundi in 2003m and more recently on-going missions in in Darfur, Sudan, since 2004 and in Somalia since 2007. The AU also allows regional economic communities to take a lead in responding threats to peace so allowing action to be taken at the appropriate level.
There is too much distrust amongst the AU’s membership already: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone all accuse each other of backing rebel movements in their respective civil wars. The UN is asking regional organizations to shoulder some of its "peace and security" responsibilities out of desperation, as prompted by its failure in Rwanda, not as part of some strategy. In Kosovo, NATO had to intervene because Russia blocked any UN action at the Security Council. There are as yet no other successful examples of regional organizations (i.e. ASEAN, APEC, OAS) getting involved in a military conflict and successfully bringing peace.Improve this
There is already some African integration that can be built on.
While African integration has been slow there has been real progress in constructing the building blocks to allow further integration. African countries are already somewhat integrated: for example 14 countries in West and Central Africa use the CFA franc as currency and there are regional blocks in West Africa and East Africa. The existence of these regional free trade areas the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern African Countries (COMESA), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will eventually provide the springboard for further integration throughout the whole of Africa. The latter three of these communities have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on integration and harmonise areas such as trade. More importantly, despite problems with the creation of a single currency, the EU remains a good model for the AU: no one would suggest that the EU is in danger of being disbanded. Though its members might have differences as to its exact structure, that debate is no different than in any other confederation.
 ‘Memorandum of Understanding on Inter Regional Cooperation and Integration Amongst Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC)’, 19 January 2011.
While African governments may be good at professing to want cooperation and integration the reality on the ground lags behind this considerably. No regional trade block has yet been really successful in creating a free trade area let alone a customs union and protectionism, restrictive trade practices and import bans often remain. The effectiveness and chances of integration through free trade are also greatly reduced by almost all the potential member states having very similar economies that rely on the export of primary goods. This makes specialisation and a concentration on trade within the block difficult without a complete restructuring of countries economies. Moreover free trade requires effective infrastructure, something Africa is lacking. Integration is therefore unlikely to go anywhere and even if it does it may have little effect.
Integration will fix the problem of borders
For some commentators, Africa’s biggest problem is that its countries are remnants of colonial empires. In the post-colonial period, borders were drawn between states randomly, creating ethnic tension and geographic dissonance. Qaddafi argued that peace will break out when Africa’s borders disappear. As Saadi Touval argued “The borders are blamed for the disappearance of a unity which supposed existed in Africa in precolonial times… The borders are considered to be one of the humiliating legacies of colonialism, which, according to this view, independent Africa ought to abolish”. Though unification is the end goal, the short-term objective is to create an African free trade area with some semblance of regional organization. Most importantly, the AU has abandoned the notion of absolute "state sovereignty": it can "peer review" the human rights and political situation in any of its members. The EU was established after WWII to assist in the rebuilding of Europe; why can’t the AU do the same in Africa?
Many of Africa’s wars are ethnic conflicts (i.e. Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, the Congo). These conflicts will not be dissipated by simply redrawing – or attempting to dissolve - national borders. Instead of integration if borders are the problem then Africa needs to be redrawn into smaller states based on ethnicity as in Europe. Secessionist would then movements would disappear, each state could have its own language so facilitating democracy, there would be no more identity politics and each state, though smaller would be stronger. Only when this is done can these states begin continental integration.
Africa prizes sovereignty
In Africa as elsewhere where there has been decolonisation the countries prize their independence. This is entirely understandable, but it makes it unlikely that they will be willing to forgo their sovereignty in the near future. Indeed notwithstanding the goal of integration one of the objectives of the AU is ‘To defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States’. So long as there are internal conflicts and a need for state building then it is correct that this should come first before integration. As UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has noted, "no amount of aid or trade will make the difference" unless war ends on the continent. Moreover the larger nations in Africa; South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya need to be on-board if any real union is to be effective. However sovereignty is more important to these states as they have real influence as independent nations and as a result they are the least enthusiastic about integration.
While it used to be correct that Africa prized sovereignty above everything else, including stability, this is no longer the case. Just by signing up to the African Union states were showing that they were now willing to cede some sovereignty to the organisation as it involved ceding some power to the Pan African Parliament and the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. Some sovereign power is also ceded to the Assembly of the AU, composed of heads of state and government, as while decisions are preferably by consensus it can also be by a two thirds majority, and the decision is still binding on the minority that disagrees. Moreover the protocols establishing all of these bodies anticipate more powers slowly being transferred to them. In particular the Pan African parliament will slowly gain the power to legislate much as the European Parliament does.
 Ibid p.4
African international organisations do not have a history of effectiveness
In its thirty-nine year history, the predecessor of the AU, the OAU is almost universally judged as an abysmal failure. It failed to challenge any major dictator on the continent and stood idle while civil war, ethnic conflict, poverty and disease ravaged ordinary Africans. Idi Amin, the former Ugandan despot, even served as the OAU chairman for a brief spell. Its only success was in preserving the notion of sovereign borders in Africa. The AU suffers many of the old problems of the OAU; particularly its capabilities falling well short of the ambitious rhetoric. The institution still does not have mechanisms to enforce or even encourage compliance so cannot resolve conflicts. When conflicts arise there has been difficulty getting action from the AU due to a preference for consensus and even if there is agreement the Union does not have the capability to intervene.
We should not be tarring the AU with the failures of the OAU. The objectives of the AU are different than that of the OAU. To begin, it is modelled on the European Union, a successful blueprint for building regional institutions and alliances. Second, the AU has already accepted the need for more coercive measures and as a result used sanctions nine times between its foundation and 2011 in response to unconstitutional changes of government. The common electoral standards already call for independent observers before and after any national election so encouraging good governance. And the peace and security council has the authority to send troops to stop crimes against humanity or war crimes. The buzzword at the AU is "people-centred" as opposed to the OAU’s focus on state sovereignty.
The AU faces immense challenges that did not affect Europe
The AU’s model, the EU, is a work-in-progress. Even in Europe, there is some concern that the EU will not hold and the Euro crisis has shown the difficulties in integrating economies. Even if the EU were a perfect model, it was established in a time of peace. In Africa, war still rages in parts of the continent; such as Somalia, Congo, and Mali. And in Europe, unification is broadly supported by international and economic heavyweights: Britain, France and Germany. In Africa, the comparable AU anchors are Nigeria and South Africa, neither of which can guarantee AU commitments by themselves.
Africa also has huge economic concerns that don’t plague Europe: most African countries trade with their former colonial masters rather than each other, Africas trade with itself is on average only 10% of trade, and the standard of living varies widely across the continent (e.g. South Africa’s GDP is ten times that of Nigeria).
Finally it should be remembered that it took the EU forty years to establish a shared currency and a central bank – which is itself showing the strains created by doing so. How will Africa, home to some of the world’s poorest and most corrupt countries, do it any faster?
Africa also has advantages that Europe did not have; there is no cold war dividing the continent into opposing armed camps, there are now many successful examples of developing world countries industrialising to draw on, and organisations like the EU that have forged on ahead have shown up some of the potential problems for Africa to avoid. Kofi Annan has also noted that Europe too started integration with a devastated continent "That, Excellencies, should be our aim - to rebuild, as Europe did, after a series of devastating wars, uniting across old divisions to build a continent characterized by peace, cooperation, economic progress and the rule of law."
Moreover some of Africa’s disadvantages could potentially be turned into advantages if integration is managed correctly. Africa’s lack of industrialisation for example means that member states can choose to specialise in complementary areas as they industrialise.
The role of leaders will prevent success
A pan-African organization must be willing to stand up to African dictators and military rulers, the real cause of bloodshed and poverty on the continent. So far the AU has failed in this mission: Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe is a charter member of the AU and the AU has done little to encourage him to relinquish control of his country. It continued this trend by being unwilling to recognise the Libyan rebels until after the capital, Tripoli, had fallen. The conflict in Libya showed that are still happy to support autocrats and unwilling to champion democracy. So long as this is the case the AU will be unable to pool sovereignty in the way the European Union has as these individuals are unwilling to give up power, whether that is in elections or to international organisations.
First of all Africa is becoming more democratic; in 1983 there were only three democracies in Africa but by 2010 this had increased to 23 and with this comes an increase in accountability and desire both for cooperation with neighbours and for economic liberalisation.
While individuals certainly dominate African politics and often power is more concentrated in their hands than in more mature democracies this can be an advantage. If these leaders do want to move towards a closer union they can potentially do so much faster than countries where many more interest groups need to be taken into account.
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