Reviewed in: Africa Review of Books (Revue Africaine des Livres), March 2015
Region-Building in Southern Africa: progress, problems and prospects, edited by Chris Saunders, Gwinyayi A. Dzinesa, and Dawn Nagar, Centre for Conflict Resolution, Wits University Press and Zed Books, 2012, $40, ISBN 978-1-86814-576-8, 370 pages
Great Lakes Region and Southern Africa in Historical and Contemporary Perspective
Region-Building in Southern Africa: Progress, problems and prospects
The authors and editors of RBSA commendably assembled an impressive set of articles that offer incisive insights into the colonial antecedents to regionalism in Southern Africa: from the false starts to the promises and prospects as well as the continuing push for a bloc that remains under the shadow and towering influence of the region's economic and military hegemon - South Africa. Although some contributors to RBSA allude to the rising power of Angola, post-apartheid South Africa nevertheless remains the foremost benefactor in a region where the majority of states are materially impoverished. The anti-colonial and anti-apartheid provenance of southern African regionalism is unmistakable. The struggle against white minority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia, coupled with the protracted resistance against the lingering Portuguese colonial presence in Angola and Mozambique, provided the initial impetus for southern African unity. The regionalism started with the lose association of the Mulungushi Club, later transformed into the Front Line States (FLS) in 1975. This initial endeavor was primarily a political and military collaboration against late colonialism and white minority rule. Taking off from this early formative stage, the authors and editors of RBSA trace the traipsed evolution of arguably Africa's largest regional grouping, encompassing 'the entire southern half of the African continent as well as island-states off the East African coast' (p.6).
Outline of the Book
RBSA is a comprehensive volume, covering a wide range of themes in regional integration under the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The book has five major parts. Part one, 'Historical Legacy,' has chapters by the distinguished Kenyan scholar Gilbert Khadiagala and Kaire Mbuende, a former Executive Secretary of SADC. Khadiagala offers a broad but remarkably incisive introduction to the origins and processes leading to the formulation of SADC in 1992. Mbuende on his part gives an 'insider's view' of the workings and failings of SADC. Part two (with four chapters) on 'Governance and Military Security' covers a wide range of topics: SADC's decision-making architecture (by Chris Landsberg), elections and conflict management (by Khabele Matlosa), peacekeeping (by Chris Saunders), and gender and peacebuilding (by Elizabeth Otitodun and Antonia Porter). The third part of the book shifts to addressing economic integration issues proper. Its three chapters include Dawn Nagar's assessment of three initiatives under SADC: the Southern African Power Pool, the SADC Free Trade Area, and the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan. The other two chapters, one by Richard Gibb and the other by David Monyae, examine SADC's Customs Union and its development. finance institutions, respectively.
In part four (with four chapters), Scott Drimie and Sithabiso Gandure discuss the problem of food insecurity, noting that although SADC Heads of State and Government adopted the Dar es Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in May 2004, progress is hindered by weak institutional policy frameworks. The second chapter on HIV/AIDS and human security: by Gwinyayi Dzinesa argues that 'in Southern Africa, HlV/AIDS has deepened and prolonged household poverty' (p. 200). As such, the region remains the global epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic...' (p. 210). In the other two chapters, one on migration and xenophobia by the eminent Cameroonian scholar Francis Nyanmjoh and Patience Mususa and the second on climate change by David Simon (two subjects that animate global debate), the subjects are analyzed in the context of a region that has bad a fair share of migration and climate change problems. Nyamnjoh and Mususa address the 'hard questions about the politics of citizenship in the region [and] the impact of neoliberal economic policies on livelihoods' (p. 216). Simon on his part analyzes SADC's policy on climate change, noting that 'the first substantive and clear attempt by SADC to integrate climate change into its programs and activities was not made until 2008...' (p. 238).
In the final part of the book, three authors - Mzukisi Qobo, Nomfundo Xenia Ngwenya and Garth le Pere - respectively assess the contrasting influences on SADC of three major external players: the European Union, the United States, and China. Qobo argues that SADC's many decades of over-dependence on the EU has created a client relationship and 'effectively locked SADC into Brussels' sphere of influence and that the rise of emerging powers such as China, India, and Brazil has prompted the EU to consolidate its hold and increase its global market share relative to the rising powers (p. 251). As regards US-SADC relations, Ngwenya highlights the nuances in shifting US foreign policy in the region from the Cold-War era through the Clinton, Bush, and Obama years. She notes the rising strategic place of Angola that is likely to disturb South Africa's special relationship with Washington. Finally, on Sino-African relations, le Pere argues that the historical dependence on the EU and US has recently been mitigated by China's entry into Africa, providing different menu options and an alternative to the 'Washington Consensus.' But while Beijing spoke of engaging with African institutions on a multilateral basis, its Africa policy has been largely bilateral, 'a divide and rule tactic' (p. 289}.
In the concluding chapter, the editors draw from the foregoing sixteen chapters of the book to end with a prescriptive message for more region-building to tackle the region's practical problems. In sum, the book undertakes a sweeping assessment of a complex set of issues in southern Africa with SADC as the pivotal player. Since its formation in Windhoek, Namibia in 1992, underscored by the editors in the introduction, 'SADC has been the most important regional organization in southern Africa. It has constructed an elaborate structure to deal with economic, political and security issues...'(p. 16}.
What the Book Accomplishes
This volume has many accomplishments; I will focus on only a few. First, part one of the hook, especially the chapter by Khadiagala, brilliantly traces southern African regionalism back to the l960s and the informal Mulungushi Club (later FLS) of Presidents Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere. Khadiagala's chapter is complemented by the 'insider-view' chapter by SADC's former Executive Secretary, Kaire Mbuende. But as an anticolonial alliance, the collapse of Portuguese rule in Angola and Mozambique, and the end of Ian Smith's white minority rule in southern Rhodesia meant that the FLS had somewhat run its course. Thus, it was transformed into the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) in 1980 and later the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The transformation of FLS into SADCC and finally SADC, and '[t]he reemergence of South Africa within SADC marked a decisive transformation from a decolonization-driven regionalism to functional integration...' (p. 33).
A key message in Khadiagala's chapter, and indeed the entire volume, is that Southern African regionalism has parallels with the European Economic Community/Union (EEC/U). The latter, which started as the European Coal and Steel Community, was forged as a lasting solution to a security complex involving Franco-German rivalry, especially over the Rhine industrial frontier. Since the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, control over the Rhine area had remained a source of potential and actual armed hostility. Indeed, it was a major contributory factor to the outbreak of the Second World War. Therefore, the solution to the high-politics of securing geopolitical strategic interests was sought in the realm of low politics in functionalist economic integration. RBSA too suggests that economic integration, perhaps inadvertently, was born out of the high politics of fighting colonialism, apartheid, and white minority rule. But whereas the EU project was seen as a bulwark against armed conflict, SADCC and later SADC was intended to foster collective development based on historical political solidarity and security cooperation. Basing economic integration on security cooperation was a point of strength but also a problem. This leads me to the second key element of RBSA: quite apart from the EU integration process, the SADC gradualist integration has an inverted logic; it is a case of putting the cart before the horse.
While the EEC, and closer home the East African Community, started as an economic cooperation to cure political and security problems, SADC started as a security/political cooperation, which later gravitated towards economic cooperation. The Mulungushi Club and FLS were primarily anticolonial anti-apartheid security cooperation arrangements while SADCC moved the cooperation to an economic level. The 1992 SADC Treaty sought to merge the two and achieve both political cooperation and economic integration, but little progress has been made so far. Little wonder therefore that SADC's progress has been hampered by, among other things, the influence of individual national political leaders, state-centric approaches, and a less empowered secretariat. The elite group that started as the Mulungushi Club created a legacy of elite camaraderie that continues to hamper the growth of independent and credible regional institutions.
If the FLS forum was built around credible political and security considerations, the end of colonialism and apartheid meant that successful economic cooperation and integration would necessitate a kind of convergence of economic interests. This is something that the authors of RBSA fail to confront directly. By taking this tack, the book would have yielded theoretical insights especially in accounting for why the nco-functionalist approach has not succeeded in the manner that it worked with the EEC/EU. What is more, it appears that the shared need for accelerated socioeconomic development among southern Africa states is a necessary but not quite a sufficient condition to compel individual nation-states to fully embrace the agenda of full political and market integration. This political economy dynamic deserved more space in such an authoritative book than it was granted. In the absence of over-arching cross-border economic interests, southern African states are engaged in individualized dependence on external patrons, especially China today, meaning that in turn the regional integration project has tended to be subordinated to foreign interests and calculations - something sidelined in RBSA.
By War of Conclusion
... RBSA is a more contemporary analysis and policy-oriented study of previous as well as ongoing attempts at forging a regional bloc against the backdrop of a shared political and historical experience. ... [The] second volume offers practical and invaluable policy lessons on the progress and prospects of regional integration. Regrettably though, both volumes fall short on the account of making a direct and persuasive link between the past and the present, between historical insights and contemporary realities. ... RBSA starts off by acknowledging the historical bases of region-building in Southern Africa, but grants little attention to how it is, precisely that same history that explains not only the prospects for the region but also the impediments to its progress.