Regional integration has been the vision of African leaders since independence. To date, Africa has witnessed the creation of 14 Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The integration vision of African leaders leaped forward on 3rd June 1991 when the Heads of State and Governments of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) adopted the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community (AEC).
The Abuja Treaty designates Africa’s RECs as the building blocks for stronger integration and the creation of an African Economic Community as the last stage toward the full integration of Africa. Africa’s regional economic communities are making progress in Africa’s attempt to integrate. And , even though the African Union recognizes only eight RECs, the continent currently hosts 14 inter-governmental organizations, working on regional integration issues, with various objectives, numerous treaties and protocols governing inter-state relations that , overlap in such an imbroglio that has been described as the “the Spaghetti Bowl Effect”.
Countries are aware of the consequences of multiple memberships. However, why does this phenomenon persist? In this discussion, we argue that it is in the interest of a small and landlocked country to belong to the same REC as all its neighbors. In case all the neighboring countries do not belong to the same regional economic community, it is in such a country’s interest to be a member of the RECs neighboring countries belong to. In such a situation, the country will experience overlapping membership, with potential overwhelming costs. The country could therefore have no choice, consciously or not, but to adopt the “free rider” syndrome.
We will apply this analysis to the case of Burundi and will be using the findings from the ongoing survey on the African RECs capacity needs assessment.