Support to Regional Cooperation and Integration in Africa: What Works and Why?

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Expert Group for Aid Studies
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The donor community and external actors have supported regionalism and regional organizations in Africa for many decades. In this EBA-report, Fredrik Söderbaum and Therese Brolin have examined what works and why in the provision of external support for regional cooperation and integration in Africa This has been done with a view to providing input to the design and implementation of Swedish regional support but also to stimulate a broader international debate around regional, as well as national support to Africa. Swedish cooperation strategies for Africa have focused heavily on support to the African Union and the regional economic communities. The authors argue that Sweden risks repeating the same mistake as many other donors, namely by focusing on capacity building of regional organisations instead of on development outcomes and poverty reduction. According to them, this approach leads to a confusion of means and ends, and an emphasis on activities and outputs rather than long-term development results. The authors recommend that donors go beyond the narrow focus on state-led and top-down regional organisations to also involve non-state actors in more flexible and development friendly collaboration mechanisms. In addition, the authors point to the need to ensure African ownership and the importance of a better understanding of incentives and ownership in the context of regional development cooperation as well as the importance of aligning national support to regional support.