Interregional Relations between North America and Africa
Since the end of the Cold War, the burgeoning growth of relationships between regional organisations around the globe has broadened the focus of once eurocentric interregional studies (Söderbaum 2012). Organisations such as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have developed a wide range of international relationships, with other regional organisations and third countries too. Latin America is similarly going through a “new era” of regional integration (Mouline 2013). Africa also boasts a large number of regional organisations with many enjoying formal ties with other regional entities within the continent and beyond.
The purpose of this study is to explore the extent of interregional cooperation between North America and Africa. Are there any discernible trends? Is cooperation growing, remaining stable or increasing, and why? Such a proposition might strike the observer as counter- intuitive, given the paucity of North American regional organisations with any relations beyond the continent. Indeed, it has been asserted that “the North American continent did not experience a formal process of regionalisation in the twentieth century” (Ayres and Macdonald 2015, 182). Functional regional organisations did exist of course, centred around security such as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) or minor area-specific trade agreements like the Canada-US Auto Pact (1965). The economic and political asymmetry between the United States, Canada and Mexico precluded more ambitious regional initiatives until the end of the century, with the establishment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Still, NAFTA represents a free trade area rather than a regional institution and as such does not have the agency to interact with other regional groupings. Instead, strategic economic and political issues have taken on a bilateral focus in North America (Fredrik Söderbaum, 2014). For instance, recent focus has concerned the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations between the EU and the U.S. as well as a free trade agreement (FTA) with Canada and the EU. It is this paucity of North American regionalism which has precluded more study of interregional relationships, including those between North America and Africa.
In notable contrast to North America, African regionalism is extensive – even to the point where some have considered the number of overlapping institutions and jurisdictions as a “spaghetti bowl” (Draper, Halleson and Alves 2007, 7). Some fourteen regional economic communities (RECs) exist, despite decades-old legislation (from the former Organisation for African Unity, now African Union) to limit them to five. While efforts have been made to account for an African brand of regionalism (Bach 1999), and particularly the topical issue of regional economic integration, comparatively less analysis exists concerning African interregional relations beyond the continent.