EACSO (1961-1967) was developed after independence to continue these links and aid the development of the region. It was meant to provide a community …in which a shared and centralised administration was to provide services, including transportation, communication, tax collection, scientific research, social services and university education. The EACSO charter was also to create a common currency, a common appellate court, and a common market in which goods and labour could circulate freely. These were to be directed by a central legislative assembly. By 1965, the EACSO began to come apart due to growing tendencies toward nationalism and diverging economic and political policies.
In 1967, a new organisation was founded under the rubric of the East African Community (EAC), established under the Treaty for East African Cooperation. [The] East African Community collapsed in 1977, due to among others; the variability of economic policies then pursued by the member states, the change of Government in Uganda in 1971, the continued perception of disproportionate sharing of benefits accruing from economic integration and the lack of adequate compensation mechanisms to address the situation, and the exclusion of civil society and the private sector from participating in co-operation activities.
The attempts of the EACSO/EAC to provide a regional solution to its member states’ problems were laudable; they were attempting to cooperate and coordinate efforts to deliver a resolution without external assistance and had some successes.16 However, they were not exempt from external influences and interference.Cold War Era Many people perceive this era as one of great interference from foreign powers, where African states were used as pawns in the global game of chess that was played out over many years between the former Soviet Union and the United States of America. However, once more, the model is not as simplistic as one may first think.
In Addis Ababa, 25th May 1963, a conference between 30 independent African states occurred. It was inspired by the possibility of an African union. Before arriving at the conference stage there were many political obstacles to be faced; there were essentially three contrasting blocs of opinion that had to be reconciled if there was to be a deal. The three blocs represented very different views of how the union should be forged. The Brazzaville group thought that the union should be as loose an affair as possible, with the states’ sovereignty the most important element.18 Conversely, the Casablanca group followed Nkrumah’s ‘hymn sheet’, believing that a federal union of states was the only way forward.19 Finally, sitting somewhere in the middle, were the Monrovia group.
If we look at the original objectives of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Charter, we can see where the compromises took place. It declared five objectives; to promote unity across the continent; to coordinate efforts to improve the life of the African people; to defend African sovereignty; to promote international cooperation; to eradicate colonialism. Despite some people complaining that it fell short of its potential, the OAU can be seen as a great first step to the rebuilding of a truly independent Africa. Notwithstanding this massive move towards continental and international recognition of an independent Africa, after 1945 many states found themselves dragged into the ever-increasing hostilities between the USA and the USSR. None was more involved than South Africa, whose government were instilled with anti-communist doctrines.
The South African experience spread into Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). These regimes perceived their enemy (i.e. any political opposition) to be those who would overthrow capitalism and nationalise the private sector.20 As such, the West, who was willing to ignore minority rule and racism, if it meant that their way of life was preserved, quietly and discreetly supported these anti-communist bulwarks. The Zairian leader, President Joseph Mobutu, was similarly supported by the West for making a public stand against Communism, while at the same time he systematically stripped his country of its wealth and resources.
However, the West was not alone in offering support to the African nations. The USSR, whose socialist, Marxist-Leninist revolutionary ideals had spread to some of the more ‘militant’ parts of Africa and the pan-African movement (especially parts of the Casablanca Bloc) offered assistance. Aside from military aid, the former Soviet Union also offered a number of educational scholarships to young people, mainly in the former English and Portuguese territories. But the Soviet Union gave little in the way of aid or trade. There was no great Soviet strategy for taking over Africa, and generally, the Soviet Union was under informed about history, political structures and the needs of the countries it supported.
In an attempt to move away from such wrangling, the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) was developed in 1975, it was finally realised in 1978 and had many aims, among which were …to promote co-operation and integration in economic, social and cultural activity, ultimately leading to the establishment of an economic and monetary union through the total integration of the sixteen national economies in West Africa. It also aims to raise the living standards of its peoples, maintain and enhance economic stability, foster relations among member states and contribute to the progress and development of the African Continent.
It was ambitious in its aims and looked to be setting the example for the rest of Africa to follow. However, the fortunes of ECOWAS were not entirely positive. The community lacked homogeneity in its outlook; partly due to the mixed colonial experiences;24 partly due to the conflicting regional interests of other groups and partly due to a lack of commitment, as most states still pursued policies of economic nationalism, supported by foreign powers’ continued trade and aid.
Other attempts were made during this extended period to counter the feeling of dependency among African states. In 1979, the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) was held in an attempt to encourage trade between the southern African states, reducing their reliance on the apartheid state of South Africa26 as well as on foreign trade and aid. Trade within the region was to be encouraged and priority was to be given to improving transport and communications. A development fund was set up, with finance supplied mainly by Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) governments.
The readiness of the OECD to assist in the development of the SADCC was a double-edged sword. It provided the funds and guidance required to set up such an institution, delivering experienced personnel and training. However, the SADCC’s need for large amounts of money (over three-quarters the total funding) from the OECD did little to offset southern African dependency on foreign trade and aid. During the Cold War many movements were made to try and alleviate the African situation and prompt a wave of self-sufficiency and growth. These initiatives were encouraged and developed from both the domestic and international arena. However, the west’s concern over the looming spread of communism overshadowed many of the programs’ potential.
The inability of the African states to adequately fund these schemes exacerbated the dependency phenomenon and further weakened the state. This had effects on the type and style of government which saw a drastic shift toward centralised, authoritarian rule during this period. This shift was left unchecked by the wider community who were more concerned about the USA and USSR’s posturing.
After the conclusion of the Cold War, many of these projects were reinvigorated and saw a gradual change in fortunes. We start by examining the shift in possible prosperity of the SADCC, which, after democratic elections and the cessation of apartheid in South Africa, saw the entrance of a new and powerful member. Post-Cold War The end of the Cold War brought about a fresh motivation for the democratisation and capitalisation of the world, as the apparent failure of communism left, for the west at least, no real alternative. The OECD picked up its efforts to stabilise and expand African unity. Once more, South Africa was a pivotal player in this process as the SADCC was revamped in 1995 under a new title, the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The SADC relied heavily on South Africa, whose GDP was more than four times that of the other members combined. The newly, democratically elected, president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, personified the African struggle. Here was a man who had been imprisoned for his defiance of the oppressive forces witnessed in South Africa, who had worked hard to reinvent himself and fuse the peoples of South Africa (black and white) behind a vision of a united, fair and free South Africa. If one man can accomplish so much, then why not a group of governments?
This optimism and purpose made the SADC a cohesive and determined force. The legacy issues remained (political instability; economic nationalism; differences in ideology, language, culture and political strength; direct economic competition; poor inter-state communication), but they seemed hell-bent on tackling them and moving forward. Their decisive intervention in Lesotho (1998) to quash a rebel uprising and re-affirm democratic rule was a major step forward for the SADC and Africa as a whole. It was one step closer to a peer review system, casting off the original ideals of non-interference for a more progressive agenda.