Mathieson, C. (2016) ‘The Political Economy of Regional Integration: The East African Community (EAC)’. Maastricht: ECDPM.
This study presents a political economy analysis of the East African Community (EAC), focusing on what drives and constrains this regional organisation in promoting economic integration. In particular it looks at transport infrastructure, and at trade policy monitoring, particularly the system for monitoring regional integration implementation. The report is part of a broader study that also includes the African Union and four other Regional Economic Communities in Africa.
The analysis highlights the importance of setting appropriate levels of ambition in regional processes and the challenge of trying to alter incentives rather than adapting to existing interests, perhaps illustrated best by the accelerated integration efforts of the sub-group of Northern corridor countries. But this initiative represents both an opportunity to drive integration, as well as a risk that it could result in divisions within the EAC. This suggests a need for policymakers to strike a balance between accelerated coordination, which can be driven by a limited number of states, and ensuring cohesion in the wider group of EAC states. It also suggests an opportunity for support strategies to back accelerated coordination efforts by regional sub-groups on the basis that adapting policy to such informal groupings can create real progress towards regional integration. However, this also requires a deep understanding of the underlying interests, incentives and relationship dynamics between states to avoid fostering tensions.