On 18 March, the Observatoire de l’Afrique hosted its first conference of 2015 on ‘The Political Economy of Regional Security Integration in Africa’. Security challenges in sub-Saharan Africa include violent extremism, organised crime, armed conflicts, arms trafficking, and refugee crises. These have a distinct regional character. The nature and scope of regional responses to these have varied significantly. While in some instances African regional organisations have played an important role in mobilizing a concerted response to such security threats, in other instances regional responses have been more ad hoc, informal or fractious.
Regional integration is regularly promoted by international actors as a means to address—or pre-empt—security challenges. However, donor interventions themselves often suffer from an insufficient understanding of the political dynamics which underpin these regional security dynamics and a lack of critical reflection on the role of existing regional organisations in addressing these. What is needed is an examination of the political economy of regional security. This involves looking at the political and economic processes and the power relations which surround regional responses to security dynamics.
The conference asked what kind of regional responses have emerged to address current security crises, and what local, national, and regional factors have conditioned these responses? It looked at three areas that pose important regional security challenges today: the Great Lakes region, the Lake Chad Basin and South Sudan.
The Observatoire de l’Afrique (OA) is a network whose aims are to encourage discussion between African and European specialists on African security and political issues, create a forum for constructive dialogue and debate and provide useful conclusions to a wide range of policy makers. The members of the Observatoire are the Egmont Institute, the Clingendael Institute, the Institute for Security Studies and the Rift Valley Institute.