An analysis of South Africa's role in regional integration in Southern Africa : prospects and challenges.
Since the success of Regional Integration (RI) in Europe epitomized by the European Union (EU), the mutual potential benefits that could be attained from RI initiatives and agreements have attracted much attention to the topic of RI. In the African context, RI has been hailed as the mechanism that nurtures the development of economic income, trade and bargaining power. This has resulted in the establishment of a number of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in different parts of Africa. Despite the prevalence of Regional Economic Agreements (REAs) across Africa, RI has been largely unsuccessful due to a confluence of factors. Having been disregarded as a legitimate state by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region due to its apartheid regime prior to 1994, South Africa has since emerged as one of the well-developed countries in SSA. Having transitioned from the apartheid regime to a post-apartheid era, South Africa rose to become one of the dominant economic powerhouses in SSA, and a leader in the SADC region. The role of South Africa as a hegemon in SADC has been contested by some, citing the State’s inability to resolve some of its domestic problems to a satisfactory level. This research is an investigation or inquiry into the prospects of South Africa as the most qualified State to carry out the responsibility of spear-heading the RI process in the Southern African region. In the process of compiling this research secondary data obtained from books, journal articles, newspaper articles and existing theses dealing with RI in Europe, Africa, and Southern Africa were analysed. The results of this study portray South Africa as the most suitable candidate for leading RI in Southern Africa. This is primarily due to its advanced infrastructural development, superior economic strength and peace enforcement capabilities in conflict-ridden Africa. South Africa is also the largest capital contributor and the biggest investor in individual states in the SADC region. Based on these results, one recommendation is that the African continent in general and the SADC region in particular has reasons to cooperate with South Africa in reviving the RI agenda that would benefit the entire African continent. South Africa can still play its role as the leading economic powerhouse while the presidency of SADC block of nations is rotated annually amongst the member countries as in the EU. South Africa will then not be viewed suspiciously as having usurped the hegemonic status within the region. Giant strides have already been made in the political and economic arena; South Africa can build on these successes.
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