China and the African Regional Economic Communities: Transforming Multilateral Cooperation

Terrefe, Biruk ; Bénazéraf, David (2015-11)

Article

Recently, China has increased its economic, political and military co-operation with the African Union (AU). The diversity of members within the AU makes the continental approach more complicated for both Chinese and African actors. This is largely due to the AU’s lack of instrumental capacity, resulting from its financial and structural weakness, as an inter-governmental actor. This policy brief highlights an alternative platform through which co-operation could be fostered. African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) increase the bargaining power of African states, without losing the instrumental capacity of implementing and monitoring policies effectively. China’s engagement with the RECs would not only nurture regional integration, but also enhance China’s co-operation with Africa as a whole. In the following briefing, we argue that increased co-operation with regional organisations is necessary as China’s bilateral and continental engagements face institutional, political and economic challenges. The RECs need to move to the forefront of the Sino-African dialogue in order to satisfy Africa’s aspiration for global markets and China’s interest in increased political, economic and cultural co-operation.

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