COMESA_LogoIn many developing countries, regional integration is increasingly being acknowledged as a strategy for addressing development issues. Motives for regional integration include economic, social and political interests. In Africa, regional integration is especially viewed as a response to the difficulties faced by a continent with many small national markets and many landlocked countries. As a response, African governments have concluded a large number of Regional Integration arrangements yet one of the key challenges remains the implementation of regional decisions at national level.

Imani Development recently collaborated with the Southern African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) on behalf of GIZ, conducting a comparative analysis of the regional economic communities (RECs) of COMESAEACECOWAS and SADC, attempting to provide insights on practical measures that can be implemented at technical level by the RECS to foster Member States’ compliance with regional decisions.

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The report identifies a number of ‘conditioning factors’ that can influence if/when community laws are implemented at national levels. These conditioning factors include, among others, where treaties are sufficiently precise and allows for a clear dispute mechanism that can be followed; whether the political will exists within a member state to implement community law; and existing demand for regional integration from multiple stakeholders, e.g. businesses, civil society, etc.

As these conditioning factors are difficult to change in the short to medium term, the focus should instead be on ‘compliance variables’ that are more easily influenced and which promote compliance at national level. These include legal and practical factors such as legal enforcement and accountability; champions of change harnessing political will; monitoring; the practical and technical challenges of compliance as well as the political and economic challenges of compliance.

ECOWAS-LOGO copyOne of the key challenges identified in the report for lack of implementation of community law at national level is the lack of monitoring. An initial checklist for the monitoring system in the RECs was developed, which encompasses comprehensive monitoring and problem identification, design, coverage, quality of information, verification, efficiency and comparability and links to outcomes.

The report makes a number of recommendations to encourage compliance:

  • Prioritising high impact areas that benefit a broad range of countries, and champions that support compliance across multiple countries;
  • An independent verification process as there is a lower level of compliance to REC commitments than there is to those of the World Trade Organisation;
  • SADClogo_highresLinking Regional Integration funds received by several RECs to compliance challenges (as with the Trade Related Facility for SADC) especially when the lack of implementation is a result of economic costs;
  • Exemptions from the law should be managed according to the Treaties, thereby building confidence in
    the private sector that the non-application of community law is managed and transparent;
  • Clarification of the legal status of community law at national level in order to create the transparency
    and certainty that would promote cross border economic activity;
  • Coherent and coordinated monitoring mechanisms as is the case in the EU where different monitoring systems perform different by coherent roles

Implementation of Regional Integration and compliance with community law are complex and multifaceted subjects and are always subject to changing circumstances and as such, in addition to the practical measures mentioned in the report, there are many areas that should be further explored, such as the scope for the private sector to act as champions for Regional Integration.

The team was led by Imani Director Dr Nick Charalambides and included Anne Brooks, Cynthia Chikura (Imani), Catherine Grant Makokere (SAIIA), Azwimphelele Langalanga (SAIIA) and Babajide Sodipo (Imani Associate). The report is available for download here or from the GIZ website.  

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