Should Africa Follow the EU Model?

The African Union, which replaced the Organization for African Unity (OAU) in 2002, is trying to reproduce the European Union's institutions and ways of acting. But copying the EU blueprint means that nothing has been learned from the past and that nothing is being done to avoid the pitfalls Europe has endured.

The biggest flaw in the EU model has been its reliance on a bureaucratic road to unity. In Africa, such an approach is particularly noxious because there is no real commitment on the part of African rulers to unity, which offers the prospect of creating a bureaucracy with no mission but to waste Africa's scarce resources. It will invariably recycle retired and failed politicians and be a way station for vast patronage.

Of course, Africa needs unity. The go-it-alone strategy practiced by most African countries has left them vulnerable to the whims of former colonial powers determined to perpetuate an international division of labor that assigns to Africa the role of supplier of basic products and raw materials, rather than skilled, well-paid labor.

So unity is needed to rebuild Africa. But that unity must be built step by step, with the primary focus on increasing regional trade within Africa. This should be followed by a determined strategy to end Africa's position as the "ghetto continent," one used by the industrialised countries--in collusion with most African rulers--as a dumping ground for obsolete products. Africa must cease being a region to be ransacked, burdened with ill-considered debts by the IMF and World Bank, and so left with institutionalised famine, lawlessness, and horrendus corruption.