Accepted paper:

External actor involvement at the African Union: organization, resources and practices


Ueli Staeger (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID))

Paper short abstract:

This paper theorizes how different external resources are mediated through institutional practices at the AU. The paper elucidates a theoretical blind-spot of EU-centric regionalism studies and shows the AU Commission’s attempts to establish itself as an orchestrator of African regionalism.

Paper long abstract:

Why and with which consequences are external actors involved in African regionalism? The African Union (AU) today could not run its programmes without external financial and other support from external actors. This provides for a puzzling contradiction: Are AU member states, AU bureaucrats or external donors in the driving seat? Unravelling the dynamics of external actor involvement requires a sociological framework that anchors the AU as an organization amidst the broader ideational and material resources of African regionalism, by weighing in on the practices between actors. Empirically, the paper focuses on the role of EU, the USA and China at the AU in infrastructure development policy; it combines participant observation at the AU headquarters with quantitative data. In charting the social mechanisms of external actor involvement at the AU, this contribution speaks to several debates. First, its analytic focus sheds light on a theoretical blind spot of EU-centric regionalism studies. External actor involvement therefore suggests itself as a novel form of regional governance that goes beyond the power of the purse. Second, it shows how the AU Commission attempts to coordinate the external relations of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), thereby carving out a new role of orchestrator for itself. Third, this is a contribution to the study of the politics of donor coordination within regional organizations.

panel P032
Capital politics: The political economy of African regional organisations