Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) SARPN thematic photo
Regional themes > Poverty reduction frameworks and critiques Last update: 2020-11-27  

 Related documents

Regional integration: concepts, advantages, disadvantages and lessons of experience1

Lolette Kritzinger-van Niekerk

World Bank

May 2005

SARPN acknowledges permission from Ms Lolette Kritzinger-van Niekerk, World Bank Pretoria office, for permission to post this report.
It was presented at a seminar in Maputo in May 2005 organised by the Banco de Mocambique.
[Download complete version - 98Kb ~ 1 min (12 pages)]     [ Share with a friend  ]

View presentation - 162Kb ~ 1 min


Regional economic integration has a fairly long history in virtually all parts of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). A number of leaders called for the integration of Africa already soon after independence, but it was only in the 1970s and 1980s that concrete steps were taken to re-launch or establish economic integration institutions in all sub-regions. The first generation regional integration schemes were motivated partly by the political vision of African Unity, but also as a means for providing sufficient scale to import substitution industrialization policies. This inward-looking regional strategy failed for the same reasons as the underlying national import-substitution policies2: (i) national markets were too small and too poor; (ii) high input costs adversely affected transformation and export, causing foreign exchange shortages and overvalued currencies; (iii) domestic monopolies and trade protection contributed to powerful rent-seeking and "nationalistic" lobbies, biased and organized against regional as well as global trade; (iv) nationalistic governments with spoken interest in regional cooperation gave token support to regional organizations, broke their regional commitments and implementation lapsed; and (v) there was excessive emphasis on joint public investments as opposed to creating a truly unified markets for private operators.

As countries progressively switched from import-substitution to open-door policies since the early 1980s, likewise the second-generation regional integration schemes in SSA have become characterized by open regional arrangements. There are also palpable signs of a renewed political commitment to sub-regional integration from governments and private operators alike throughout sub-Saharan Africa as well as from the international donor community and finance institutions.

Promotion of regional integration remains an important economic and political goal in Africa. In view of this, it is appropriate to briefly reexamine why regional integration is pursued, what is understood by regional integration and pre-conditions and principles for regional integration in sub-Saharan Africa. The discussion is concluded by a few observations on challenges facing regional integration in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA).


  1. By Lolette Kritzinger-van Niekerk, Senior Ecconomist, World Bank Country Office in SA. The views in this paper do not necessarily represent that of the World Bank.

  2. See Mistry, PS, 1996. Regional Integration Arrangements in Economic Development, Panacea or Pitfall? FONDAD, The Hague.

Octoplus Information Solutions Top of page | Home | Contact SARPN | Disclaimer