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Can a single market exist within a system of polycentric fragmentation of powers?

An interesting paper published in the last edition of the Revue Africaine Des Réflexions Juridiques et Politiques offers a reinterpretation of the concept of “sovereignty” of African States in the context of the regional integration experiences that the continent has experienced so far. It argues that for the African Continental Fee Trade Area (AfCFTA) to be successful, it will be necessary that member States raise their cooperation efforts by accepting the transferal of portions of their sovereignty to the AfCFTA organs.

The main concept is that a strong continental market cannot function within a system of decentralized centers of power, where each African State wants to be the architect and solely responsible for its trade policies. Competences in determining such policies should be devolved to bodies that can represent them and that can act as mediators between their positions. African States must be aware that with such transferal, their national sovereignty will not weaken or disappear. Conversely, it will be strengthened because it will be exercised at multiple levels: national and supranational (regional and continental).

Only by pooling their efforts and intensifying their cooperation African states can elevate their power, and aspire to match in the future more integrated blocs, such as the European Union. In a world that is becoming increasingly polarized, remaining locked within an autarkic regime means remaining incompetitive and accepting a status of dependance from the rest of the world.

The paper also underscores that African States have so far taken separate positions, acting in a regime of "solitary" sovereignty, with their political leaders giving priority to national interests to the detriment of the regional and continental ones. It’s time to reverse this trend and adopt an approach of sovereignty based on solidarity, through reinforced cooperation schemes, by renouncing to any protagonism on the international scene. In summary, the paper raises the need for African States to stop moving individually, inviting them to act jointly through the designated regional and continental bodies. These concerns also apply the management of trade relations with third countries and territories. How many Regional Economic Communities have concluded Free Trade Agreements with third countries? On the other hand, how many individual African countries have concluded Free Trade Agreements with other trade partners?

The ideological background of the paper is a return to the principles of the Pan-Africanism, which still today has solid roots, but that in practice has been betrayed.

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