Building Regionalism from Below

The Role of Parliaments and Civil Society in Regional Integration in Africa

by Korwa G. Adar (Volume editor) Giovanni Finizio (Volume editor) Angela Meyer (Volume editor)
©2018 Edited Collection 344 Pages
Series: Federalism, Volume 9


This edited book provides a comprehensive and comparative analytical overview of parliamentary bodies and civil society in Africa, both at the regional and national level, and their role in the ongoing regionalisation processes on the African continent. Gathering contributions from African and European experts, the book offers a collection of actual and historical facts and information, critically analyses the evolution, potential and effective place of parliamentary bodies and civil society in the context and development of regional cooperation and integration, and discusses major challenges that still need to be overcome.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction. The Role of Parliaments and Civil Society in Africa’s Regional Integration (Korwa G. Adar / Giovanni Finizio / Angela Meyer)
  • Part One: Continental and Regional Parliamentary Dimensions
  • The Pan-African Parliament as an Institution of African Integration. Prospects and Constraints (John Akokpari)
  • Sovereignty of East Africans in the Balance. The Role of the East African Legislative Assembly and the Integration Process of the EAC (Korwa G. Adar)
  • Parliamentarization of African Regional Integration. The Case of the ECOWAS Assembly (Linda Darkwa / Cyril Obi)
  • The Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa’s Legislative Assembly and its Role in the Regional Integration Process (Angela Meyer)
  • The Role of Parliaments and Civil Society in Regional Integration in Africa. The Case of the SADC Parliamentary Forum (Takawira Musavengana)
  • Part Two: National Parliamentary Dimensions
  • East African Regional Integration. A contextual Analysis of the Role of Tanzania’s Legislative Assembly (Richard M. Bosire)
  • Economic Community of West African States Integration. The Role of Nigeria’s Legislative Assembly (Nkwachukwu Orji)
  • Models, Norms and Self-Interest towards Regional Integration. South African Parliamentary Diplomacy and the Conduct of Parliamentary International Relations (Paul-Henri Bischoff)
  • Part Three: Participatory Democracy and Regional Integration: Civil Society in Perspectives
  • The Role of Civil Society in the Consolidation and Institutionalisation of Participatory Democracy within the East African Community (EAC) (Joshua M. Kivuva)
  • West African Integration. Participatory Democracy and the Role of Civil Society in ECOWAS (Francis Ikome / David Kode)
  • Region Building from Below. Potential and Challenges of Civil Society Involvement in Central Africa’s Regionalisation Process (Angela Meyer)
  • The Role of Civil Society in Regional Integration in Southern Africa. Patterns of Inclusion and Exclusion (Andréas Litsegård)
  • Civil Society Involvement and Ownership in the African Union Integration Process (Giovanni Finizio)
  • Conclusion (Korwa G. Adar / Giovanni Finizio / Angela Meyer)
  • About the Contributors
  • Series index

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The Role of Parliaments and Civil Society in Africa’s Regional Integration

Korwa G. ADAR, Giovanni FINIZIO and Angela MEYER

1.   Regionalism from Below: A Global Phenomenon

The wave of democratisation that swept Africa in the 1990s has shed new light on institutions meant to promote integration and democracy at the national, regional and continental level. The one-party authoritarian political systems, which were prevalent in Africa in the 1960s-1980s, are gradually being replaced, leading to institutional transformations at the three systemic levels. This is often called the “democratic awakening of Sub-Saharan Africa” (Joseph 2008, 104) and has had a tangible impact on the development of regional integration across Africa. Until the 1990s, regionalisation tended to be exclusively state-dominated and focused on economic cooperation. The 1990s witnessed an increased turning of regional cooperation towards political and security agendas. In addition, addressing the democratic deficits within the communities’ decision-making structures, bodies and processes has also become an issue to consider and has influenced the reform of many institutional structures at the regional level. As a consequence, national and regional parliaments in Africa have started to get more directly involved in the efforts to integrate regions. At least formally, national and many regional legislative bodies are endowed with treaty responsibilities and obligations to promote democracy and legitimacy as well as protect individual sovereignty at the regional level. In some fields, parliaments’ involvement has been particularly visible, for instance, in the context of conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peace-making initiatives (Magyar ← 17 | 18 → and Conteh-Morgan 1998; Adar, Yoh and Maloka 2004; Adar and Yoh 2006).

Another phenomenon within the democratisation wave has been the emergence and proliferation of more and more civil society organisations (CSOs) on the continent (Nyandoro and Ababio 2011; Burnell and Calvert 2003). With functions cutting across national boundaries, stronger participation of regional CSOs is seen, especially by international partners, as a way to further represent the peoples’ voice and interests in Africa’s regionalisation processes.

However, issues such as the parliamentarisation of regionalism and the growing role of non-state actors – in particular CSOs as well as national and regional parliaments – in regional integration still remain amongst the most neglected in the study of international relations, especially considering the extensive literature on regionalism available today (Costa, Dri and Stavridis 2013, xiii). These developments can be observed in all contexts in which regionalism has mostly developed, i.e. Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and East Asia, and should, therefore, be explained and interpreted in light of the systemic factors determining them.

The establishment of the liberal paradigm. The end of the Cold War and the acceleration of globalisation in the 1990s led to the global establishment of a liberal paradigm, whose pillars are the free market, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance. These economic and political principles have been adopted as guiding values by the leading international organisations and the European Union (EU), which have promoted their diffusion in national political and economic systems as well as in the politico-institutional structures of many regional organisations (Lucarelli and Manners 2007; Archibugi, Balduini and Donati 2000). How much this “ideational diffusion” has been effective and real rather than rhetorical, is the subject of debate and growing attention from the literature (Lenz 2013; Magnette and Nicolaidis 2009; Finizio 2015; Risse 2017).

The advent of “new” regionalism. Increasing interdependence has led to the development of the phenomenon of regionalism, herein roughly defined as the economic, political, social and cultural aggregation of neighbouring states (Telò 2006). Historically, the first wave of regionalism developed in the 1950s and 1960s, while the second ← 18 | 19 → one, which started in the 1980s and 1990s, saw the emergence of new regional organisations or the relaunch of pre-existing institutions on new bases. The regionalism of the last two decades has been called “new regionalism” not only because it is new at a diachronic level, but also because it has new and different features compared to the experiences of previous decades (Telò 2016). At the theoretical level, the literature on the new regionalism has showed that state-centric approaches are unable to explain and assess new, partly informal and bottom-up processes, in which state and non-state actors of a multi-level type and cutting across regions are increasingly important (Söderbaum 2008, 6-7; Warleigh-Lack, Robinson and Rosamond 2011; Schulz, Söderbaum and Öjendal 2001). Precisely the development of parliamentary assemblies within regional organisations, the growing role of national parliaments in regional integration as well as the increasing vitality and participation of CSOs in integration have contributed to defining this regionalism as qualitatively new (Stavridis and Manoli 2011, 221).

Civil society networking. The growing competences and the institutional development of regional organisations encourage civil society to organise itself at their level, call for increased spaces for participation to influence their agenda, guide their action and reform them (Söderbaum 2015; Levi, Finizio and Vallinoto 2014). Therefore, networking processes in civil society at the regional level are underway, facilitated by technological advances and the general – albeit very unequal – opening up of national political systems.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (December)
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2018. 339 pp., 5 b/w fig., 2 tables

Biographical notes

Korwa G. Adar (Volume editor) Giovanni Finizio (Volume editor) Angela Meyer (Volume editor)

Korwa G. Adar is Professor of International Relations, Department of Peace and International Studies, Daystar University, Nairobi. He is one the Trustees of the African Institute for Leaders and Leadership (AILL), Nairobi. Giovanni Finizio is Adjoint Professor of EU Foreign Policy at the University of Turin and of History of International Relations at the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, Buenos Aires. He is also researcher at the Centre for Studies on Federalism. Angela Meyer is founding member and board director of the Vienna-based research association Organisation for International Dialogue and Conflict Management (IDC) where she works as researcher and coordinator in European and international projects.


Title: Building Regionalism from Below
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346 pages