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At the 2012 African Heads of State Summit, governments endorsed plans for a continental Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by 2017, sending a clear political signal that regional integration remains a key priority for the continent. 

Regional integration remains a key objective of African economic transformation, which Europe is committed to support

Despite burgeoning regional integration and free-trade arrangements around the world, progress remains slow. Implementation and impact monitoring is often lacking, particularly in Africa. Often, there is a mismatch between bottom-up regional integration dynamics and top-down processes as well as between regional commitments and their application at the national level.

ECDPM focuses on a political economy approach to analyse the underlying dynamics and drivers of regional integration. Of increasing importance are trade and infrastructure corridors, embodying a range of development objectives aimed at overcoming coordination failures in investment and taking advantage of agglomeration and spillover effects to boost trade and productivity.

Promoting synergies for regional integration and pan-African initiatives such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) to deliver results in a crucial sectors such as agriculture and food security, we hope to contribute to integration cooperation in Africa.

We examine the role that the big economies can play in regional integration and see where there is real traction for progress

The Economic Transformation and Trade Programme has developed an agenda for analysis and dialogue, focusing on:

  • The role of South Africa as a catalyst for regional integration in the Southern Africa region and identify how the EU can best support this process
  • Analyse the nature of the Southern African Development Community’s integration process, the sector governance of trade facilitation and the political economy dynamics of including regional strategies and priorities in national development planning
  • Working closely with partners to further expand research and dialogue on the political economy of regional integration
  • Working with key stakeholders to further stimulate linkages and synergies between regional, national and international trade facilitation initiatives

Projects on regional integration

PEDRO project: The political economy dynamics of regional organisations in Africa (2016-2018)

Building on the PERIA project, the new ECDPM PEDRO project will look into the political economy dynamics of 17 regional organisations in Africa. For more information on the PEDRO project, please visit our project dossier.


PERIA project: The political economy of regional integration in Africa (2015-2016)

ECDPM’s PERIA project looked into the political economy of  six of Africa’s largest regional organisations. For more information on the PERIA project, please visit our project dossier.


PERISA project: The political economy of regional integration in Southern Africa (2012-2013)

In 2012 and 2013, ECDPM and SAIIA partnered to take stock of key political and economic actors and factors that drive regional cooperation and effective integration in a rapidly changing global environment. Fore more information on the PERISA project, please visit our project page.

See also our topic page on political economy analysis.