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Book Review

Pitfalls of regional integration through an author’s lenses

 

On December 11, 2018, all eyes will be on the United Kingdom (UK) as its parliament votes on the draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union (EU). It will be a crucial build-up towards March 30, 2019, the date by which the UK is expected to have exited the EU, consummating its June 23, 2016 vote to leave the bloc.

The book by John Peet and Anton La Guardia does not deal with Brexit expressly. It, however, discusses factors which contributed towards deepening divergence in what is one of history’s most ambitious attempts at regional integration. It looks into the issues of ceding sovereignty in policy making, central banking across borders admission of member states to regional blocs.

In fact, in a prescient manner the authors in Chapter 8 argued that “It is hard to see either it (the single currency) or the wider EU going ahead unaffected if a huffy UK were to pick up its toys and walk out.”

Viewed from an African optic, the book makes for a great read on the potential flaws to be wary of while undertaking regional integration. This is particularly important coming at a time when just eight months ago 44 African states signed the Continental Free Trade Area agreement.

The agreement is aimed at unlocking the potential of deeper trade ties amongst African economies and increase the continent’s investment allure as a single vast market.

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In my view, the book has one key take-home point regarding sustainable regional integration − it is important to adhere to the thresholds set for membership to blocs.

The authors lament that the “original sin” in the creation of the EU was the failure by member states to abide by provisions of the Maastricht Treaty. In particular, the admission of Greece to the bloc in 2001 despite failing to meet the conditions spelled in out in the Maastricht Treaty on debt and deficit signalled the canary in the coal mine.

Bringing this closer home, part of the integration pillars of the East African Community entails introduction of a single currency by 2024.

With only six years left, it is important to begin looking through the Protocol on the Establishment of a Monetary Union for the EAC with a fine comb.

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