Beyond the rhetoric: a theoretical analysis of the effects of neopatrimonialism and intergovernmentalism on the integration process in Africa

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The Organization of African Unity marked its 50th anniversary in 2013 and, despite the shift to the African Union and continued rhetoric from African leaders about the need for further integration, the progress towards the goal of economic and political integration has been ineffective. This thesis shows that integration has been ineffective in Africa namely because of the lack of political will to push integration further. The reason for this is the prevalence of neopatrimonialism on the continent, which creates a situation where leaders need access to a nation?s resources to remain in power. Economic and political integration will, inevitably, result in a loss of financial or political capital, which will then result in a lack of resources available for the client, who has used these resources to maintain their patronage base. Thus, integration in Africa has progressed slowly, as leaders do what they can to undermine the process while maintaining the appearance of progress. The major option chosen to weaken integration has been to control the institutions of integration run intergovernmentally, rather than transfer some power towards a supranational organisation. Without a transfer of power to a supranational institution, the Regional Economic Communities and African states cannot proceed towards economic, let alone political, integration. The reason for this is that decisions taken in a purely intergovernmental body, such as the African Union, will be of the lowest common denominator, resulting in a slow and ineffective integration. For integration to progress effectively, some powers will first have to be transferred to a supranational institution, which will create more actors that are actively involved in the integration process and make it more difficult for leaders to slow down or stop the move towards African unity.