African regional economic communities engagement with China
The development of effective African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) stands to benefit African countries immensely. Transnational free trade regions, single customs unions, single markets, single currencies and other forms of political and economic integration have the potential to strengthen both inter-regional and international trade as well as creating more robust solutions to issues of food, climate, health and political security. Nevertheless, implementation has proved a formidable challenge: lack of adequate economic and political structures, institutions and policies has impeded progress. The ability to strengthen many aspects of RECs are up to member states: agreeing on a set of political and socio-economic strategic priorities at the core of regional integration, implementing mechanisms for cooperation and integration as well as ensuring compliance are all challenges which need to be negotiated internally. A crucial aspect is formulating coherent policy on how to engage with external actors. Along with the European Union and the United States of America, China is now an undeniably influential actor with regards to all African RECs. With a co-ordinated China policy, RECs can effectively foster regional integration through both increased trade capacity and infrastructural development. This policy brief focuses on three RECs - SADC (Southern African Development Community); ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and the EAC (East African community) – as illustration of how Chinese investment has been harnessed.