Africa’s Integration: Not an Option, but an Imperative
Regional integration based on the principles of cooperation and coordination has been a tool used by countries and groups of countries to accomplish a wide range of objectives. These range from accessing lucrative markets and investments, securing objectives linked to peace and security, integrating into global value chains, promoting democracy and human rights, enabling economic growth and prosperity, and deepening policy convergence in critical areas. For developing countries, regional integration is an important tool of development. For some, it is not merely a matter of choice. States seeking to overcome systemic constraints such as those associated with small size, which result in small domestic markets, high production costs and insufficient skill sets, use integration to secure a number of important objectives. Such is the case of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), a nine-member grouping of micro states that established an economic union on June 18, 2010. An archipelago of islands with a total population of 600,000 located in the eastern Caribbean, these small island developing states (SIDS) have pooled sovereignty to create a system of regional and extra-regional institutional architecture as a means of providing and sharing critical services, at reduced cost. The OECS model of integration has allowed these micro-states to overcome the constraints of their size by systematically sharing the costs and provision of services to their populations. The regional grouping shares a common currency, a central bank, a judiciary, an authority for telecommunication, another for civil aviation, a Regional Parliamentary Assembly, a technical mission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, and diplomatic missions in Brussels and Rabat. The OECS Economic Union also provides negotiating leverage in wider regional groupings composed of larger countries, such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which the OECS is a part. In the late 2000s the World Bank commended the regional grouping as a model for other SIDS.