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Agency, ideas and institutions: The East African Community in the emerging economic order

O'Reilly, Peter (2019) Agency, ideas and institutions: The East African Community in the emerging economic order. PhD thesis, University of York.

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In 1999, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda signed the ‘Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community’ (EAC), which set out a comprehensive and highly ambitious regional governance agenda. In comparison with the rest of the continent, where commitments to regional integration are often made in principle but less often operationalised in practice, the EAC can be regarded as something a ‘success’ story of regionalism in Africa. Since its (re)establishment, several key integration milestones have been met, and membership has expanded to include Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. In recent years, however, the relative success of the EAC has confronted a series of challenges, due to tensions and divergences between the partner-states regarding the region’s vision for comprehensive economic and political integration. In this thesis, I aim to explain: (a) why East Africa’s policy elite were motivated to (re)establish regional governance in 1999; and (b) why, in recent years, tensions and divergences have come to characterise the EAC’s regional regime. Here, I depart from dominant understandings of African regionalism, which typically appeal to concepts of clientelism and regime boosting. Instead, I situate my study of the EAC within a wider IPE literature that emphasises the broader systemic context in which regions are imagined, institutionalised and even contested. Forwarding an agent-centred constructivist framework, I argue that the EAC’s social purpose was initially tied to a particular (neoliberal) conception of globalisation as a non-negotiable economic constraint. For East Africa’s political elite, therefore, the EAC predominantly came to be imagined and institutionalised as a space to respond to the (perceived) economic and policy imperatives of globalisation through a process of market-led integration. Yet, towards the end of the 2000s, these intersubjective conceptions of globalisation weakened among the EAC’s policy community, reflecting broader systemic shifts in the global economic order. Within this context, I highlight that discursive space has emerged within the region for the espousal of more nationalist (as opposed to regional) development agendas. This, however, has resulted in tensions arising between an emerging agenda for national development planning and the EAC’s principal ambition for deep regional economic and political integration.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Politics (York)
Depositing User: Mr Peter O'Reilly
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2020 10:24
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2020 10:24
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/25921

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