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KFG Workshop Report and Podcast: "Mapping Agency. Comparing Regionalisms in Africa", 7-8 July, Berlin

News from Aug 03, 2011

Please find the programm of the workshop here. You can access the podcast of each paper presentation by clicking on the name of the presenters in the text below.


On July 7-8, 2011, researchers from Europe and Africa convened at the Centre for Area Studies of the Freie Universität Berlin to map agencies of African regionalisms in a comparative perspective. The workshop was jointly organized by Ulrike Lorenz, currently a Postdoc at the Kolleg-Forschergruppe “The Transformative Power of Europe” (KFG) and Martin Rempe, a former KFG Postdoc and currently assistant professor at Konstanz University. Following up the KFG’s International Conference theme “The Diffusion of Regional Integration” in December 2010, the workshop aimed at systematically scrutinizing actors at and from the “receiving end” and their role in regional integration processes in Sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, the workshop wanted to serve as a platform for an interdisciplinary exchange by bringing together junior and senior researchers from political science, history, the area studies and economy working on the topic. Grouped in five panels, presentations addressed historical dimensions of regionalisms, agency in regional security issues, “actors below the radar”, the relationship of the Economic Partnership Agreements and regional integration processes, and finally, “actors beyond the radar” in South-South co-operations and South-East co-operations.

The Senegalese historian Bara N'Diaye (University of Olsztyn) provided the participants with an overview on regional integration efforts in francophone West-Africa from colonial times until today. Alexi Ylönen (University of Bayreuth) illuminated the historical roots of South-Sudan's struggle for independence, which he understood as a process of regionalism beneath state level turning into a nationalist project. Martin Welz (University of Konstanz) highlighted the significant influence of Uganda's president Museveni on the revival and development of the East African Community.

The second panel on agency in regional security issues was opened by Malte Brosig from the University of the Witwatersrand, South-Africa. Focusing on the African Union and its co-operation with the UN and the EU, he presented the African peace and security regime as an interlocking system of global and regional governance. In a similar vein, Deborah Valentina Malito (University of Milano) analysed global penetration on the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). She argued that IGAD was considerably weakened by US interests pursuing their war on terror. Overall, it became clear that peace building and security, more than other issues of regional co-operation in Africa, are highly sensitive to external agencies.

“Actors below the radar” were in the focus of the third panel. Andréas Godsäter (University of Gothenburg) analysed the impact of regional civil society organisations on trade integration in Southern Africa. Based on a critical understanding of the civil society concept, he identified several regional civil society organisations which, however, were mainly elitist associations and by no means united. Lisa Nixdorf (University of Leipzig) examined the impact of regional integration on informal cross-border traders. Drawing on field-work at the border between Kenya and Tanzania, she claimed that a lack of information as well as a lack of implementation of formal regulations rather leads to informal traders opposing regional integration efforts.

The recent negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between African countries and the EU were at the heart of the fourth panel. Taking the EPAs as a case study, Johannes Muntschick (University of Mainz) asked about the relationship between institutional deadlocks in southern African regional organisations and the role of extra-regional actors like the EU. While he argued that the influence of the EU causes institutional standstill and fragmentation, Ulrike Lorenz (KFG/ FU Berlin) showed that regional long-term dynamics and differences between the negotiation structures are equally important to explain developments in the EPA negotiations. She provided a comparative analysis of the formation of alliances in two EPA negotiation groups in eastern and southern Africa, the negotiation structures and the role of the two regional hegemons South Africa and Kenya to provide insights into complex regional dynamics.

The last panel highlighted the role of external actors. Frank Mattheis (University of Leipzig) presented his research on interregional relations between Latin America and Southern Africa and concluded that, despite a long entangled history on the one hand and rapprochement of the two regional hegemons South-Africa and Brazil on the other, mutual transfers remained limited. Daniela Sicurelli (University of Milano) highlighted the attractiveness of the traditional Chinese security model based on non-interference for the African Union compared to the EU's model which rather relies on the idea of pooled sovereignty. Finally, Bob Deacon from the University of Sheffield presented a personal account on how the idea of Regional Social Policy spread on the African continent. He put strong emphasis on the role of individual experts and advocacy networks which were crucial for the introduction of the RSP idea in several regional frameworks such as ECOWAS or SADC.

With their constructive comments, the discussants Andreas Eckert, Jana Höhnke, Rainer Tetzlaff, Tanja Börzel and Martin Rempe facilitated intense and fruitful debates in each panel that allowed the workshop to lead to new insights in actors’ roles in African regionalisms beyond the common comparison with the EU. Participants agreed that the phenomenon of regionalism itself is too often narrowly bound to regional institutions. Instead, a more open understanding of regions as “action spaces” can contribute to a more nuanced understanding of regional processes in Africa. Final papers will be published as an edited volume in the coming months.