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Is Africa Really Following Europe? An Integrated Framework for Comparative Regionalism – by Lorenso Fioremonti & Frank Mattheis.


The authors of the article are Lorenzo Fioramonti & Frank Mattheis. They are both from the University of Pretoria, Centre for the study of Governance Innovation at the department of Political Science. The article was published in 2015 by John Wiley & Sons Limited. The article has been categorized under the Journal of Common Market Studies. The article investigated if the AU mirrors the European Union from a comparative perspective using integration frameworks.

Central Thesis: The article’s authors posed the question as to whether the African Union follows in the footsteps of the European Union. However, the authors noted that many academic scholars have increased their focus on comparative regionalism. However, a framework for empirical comparative research in this field must be developed (Fioramonti & Mattheis, 2015, p.674). The argument is well-articulated through traditional regional integration theory and a new regionalism approach to understanding the concept of comparative regionalism between AU and EU.


The paper compared the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU). The comparisons of the two integration organizations were based on the following aspects (sovereignty, membership, identity, process, institutional design, and leadership). Furthermore, the article debated the frameworks used to understand the integration process between AU and EU: the old approaches (comparative analysis) and the new approaches to regionalism.

The article’s introduction conceptualized the European Union, whose main agenda was to exert global leadership by becoming a “model power.” With this, the EU has become the reference model that has supported other regional initiatives globally through diffusion and agreements or even inspired others to formulate their regional integration. Such debates occurred without the use of a practical framework.

The article compared the AU and EU from an integrated framework considering the multi-dimensional aspects of old and new regionalism. The article’s authors found that the most critical features of the EU regionalism process are the gradual stepwise approach towards shared sovereignty to trade integration and social cohesion. From a comparative perspective, the authors indicated that the regional organizations had used “union.” Secondly, they are led by a Commission, some councils, and a regional parliament. The third similarity is their flags constituting maps of the respective continents. However, in as much as the two continents have similarities in the structure of their integration, it has been indicated that both regional organizations needed to follow the linear paths to integration. The linear integration model between states and non-state actors presumes that the path should be undisputed, transparent, and not ambiguous.

Critical Evaluation

The paper debated comparative regionalism, focusing on the integrated frameworks to compare the EU and AU unions. The article’s outline has been clearly stated, and the author’s opening remarks inspire readers to follow the debate. First, the authors conceptualized the following concepts: region, regional, and lastly, regional integration.

From a comparative perspective, this article should have mentioned the differential in the monetary value. European Union uses the Euro as its common currency; Africa uses different currencies. The article should have been more clearly elaborative by providing a historical background of the two unions in the introduction before embarking on the debate so that the reader would have a clear understanding of the two unions before now the arguments made from a comparative point of view. In as much as there are some standard features between the two unions, the aspect of the constituting members of each union, with the AU having 50 member states and the EU having six nations, poses a structural and administrative role as there will be more conflicts of interests primarily in the African countries which are marked with many corrupt leaders among other poor leadership styles.

There is a paradigm shift in the comparative analysis of the integration framework on how it all started—from the comparative framework in 1960, followed by standardized focused linear integration. However, the authors would have had a better debate and concrete conclusions if the discussion had also been based on other theories, such as constructivism and different new integration approaches.

The article is relevant. There is more relevant information and high credibility, especially the author’s profound insight into the two unions from a well-structured debate. Furthermore, the article is relevant in that it is through the findings that the authors and other scholars will be significant in bridging the gap in conceptions theory and case studies. Moreover, with integrated frameworks in comparison, analysis of the two unions will be relevant in eliminating Eurocentrism, which was the main focus of the Europeans in understanding regionalism and integration. The paper’s accuracy could have been better, especially with the argument on comparative analysis in that European regional integration was the new approach to integration. However, integration has been present during and after 2nd World War. For example, the advent of the African Union was articulated to have been way back in the 1970s before its formation after the defunct OAU.

This article’s arguments were Eurocentric, and this is all because of the supranational, which is of no value to the comparative analysis with Africa. Furthermore, an argument has been made that the EU is a “deviant state of integration,” which leads to questioning how accurate the comparative analysis is. Furthermore, the article has yet to offer a discursive position on other arguments made by another school of thought, such as constructivism, among new regionalism approaches. This has made it difficult for the comparative analysis framework to produce concepts and methods that integrate the old and new approaches to regionalism.


The integration in both AU and EU has been indicated to have yet to adopt a linear integration path. This phenomenon refutes the statement on whether the African Union resembles the EU. The arguments suggest that the debate is more Eurocentric than embracing a precise comparative analysis of the other regionalism without compromising other schools of thought.

However, this debate on the comparative analysis between the two unions sheds light on some pertinent issues that make it difficult for the union to progress. Such an example is the AU’s economic focus, which has since been under scrutiny because, compared to the EU, which has a common market and a common currency, AU’s trade can only be practiced from the states trading together or from a South-South context. There is no way that the African Union is a mirror of the European Union; however, it is the opposite, with the African Union facing more challenges, especially with its structure and its constitution of 50 member states, unlike the European Union, which has six nations. It is quite correct to say that the European Union is a model for the African Union in that the African Leaders who met in 2002 in the presence of the UN General Secretary Koffi Anaan led to the conceiving of the African Union at Durban, South Africa. The integrated framework should also include other theoretical frameworks, such as constructivism theory and neo-functionalism theory, to understand the supranational feature of the European Union.


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