The Arusha conference: Moves toward a new grouping of states in Southern and Central Africa

This brief report describes the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference held at Arusha, Tanzania, on 3 and 4 July 1979. The Conference aims to develop new infrastructure and create a new economic relationship in Southern Africa which is independent of South Africa. The Frontline states form a loose political association, and the Arusha Conference indicates intention to turn it an instrument for economic development to reduce the black states’ dependence on South Africa. This requires external aid. Western backing for a new economic alignment would oppose Soviet designs and help stabilise the region. The Arusha Conference was unclear on the nature of the envisaged grouping, but did not contemplate monetary and institutional union, and national independence would not be compromised. Since the Frontline grouping is a political association, the planned economic bloc would probably have a political role. The Frontline states decided to develop a transport and communications network in Southern and Central Africa, which would be independent of South Africa. However, its success would require political stability and security and efficient management, which cannot be guaranteed. A new economic relationship of black states sets back South Africa’s proposed “constellation” of Southern African states, and the success of the “Arusha bloc” would isolate South Africa and confront it with an opposing economic bloc. However, the history of regional integration in Africa is not encouraging. Realizing Arusha’s ideals would require a great deal of political will and funds.