Regional powers are not always benevolent leaders when it comes to the building of regional insttutons. While powerful states – partcularly the “new” rising powers – may have a vested interest in regionalism as a means of projectng infuence, regional powers may behave as coercive or benevolent leaders, or alternatvely display an absence of leadership altogether.
The drivers of varying regional power behavior can be attributed to their competng concerns regarding (economic) power, functonal efciency, internatonal legit- imacy, and neopatrimonial networks. We examine behavior of Nigeria and South Africa in relation to the instutonalizaton of free trade areas and regional courts within their respectve regions.
Nigeria has displayed litle leadership in ECOWAS trade integraton due to domestc oppositon; however, a newly democratic Nigeria’s search for internatonal legitmacy drove the establishmentof the ECOWAS Court of Justce.
Likewise, South Africa’s search for legitmacy drove its support for the SADC Tribunal, but the competing demands of different audiences led it to abandon this support.
South Africa has also displayed leadership in relaton to the SADC Free Trade Area; however, its neighbors perceive it as a self-interested, almost coercive actor. The fndings suggest that the motvatons for regional powers’ behavior vary across tme and policy sectors, andthatinconsistent behavior isdriven bya change in the prioritygranted to diferent drivers.
But to what extent can Nigeria and South Africa fulfll the requirements of regional powerhood, or “power over resources,” a preconditon for regional leadership. Let us access the behavior of the two countries in relaton to the institutonalizaton of regional trade agreements within their respectve regions and explore the potental drivers underpinning their behavior.
At the the end of the day we will discover that regional powers often display highly inconsistent behavior, driven by competng demands originatng at the domestc and internatonal levels.
What is a Hegemon?
A regional Hegemon or Power is a country that belongs to a distinct geographic region, has superiority in power capabilities, and exercise some level of influence over the countries in the region. These are the criteria a country must meet unit to order to be considered a regional hegemon.
A country must articulate self -conception of having leading position in their respective regions, articulate a common regional identity and act as the de-facto representative of the regions interest in international foray.
Now all of these criteria’s imply a benevolent leadership function on behald of the regional power. Howeve a regional hegemon’s capacity to lead is not the same as its willingness to do so, especially of the state of the economy de-incentify the need to do so.
Powerful states are sometimes unwilling to provide the leadership require to esstablish or maintain economic and political institutions, despite having then capacity to do so. Furthermore, the type of leadership provided by powerful countries may range from benevolent, self-enlightened forms of leadership to more coercive and exploitatve forms.
That said, the external world often perceives powerful states as having a special duty of care towards their sub-regions, and holding the expectaton that the regional power should bear responsibility for maintaining peace and stability in its neighborhood.
Regional powers are identfed by their material dominance in comparison to other states in the region; by their share of the region’s collectve GDP, populaton, and military power. Using these variables, we agree that Brazil, China, Russia, India, South Africa, and Nigeria constitute contemporary regional powers.
In this context, a “region” is identfed and defned by the presence of a mult-purpose regional organizaton that consists of three or more states in close geographic proximity, which cooperate to pursue collectve aims within the framework of legally codifed regional insttutons. In this case “Southern Africa” is synonymous with the current membership of SADC and “West Africa” is synonymous with the current membership of ECOWAS.
Nigeria and South Africa as Regional Powers
Material dominance is a preconditon for regional leadership. The material dominance of Nigeria and South Africa in relation to their regions is analyzed using their military capability and economic Gross Domestc Product.
Taking a snapshot view of Nigeria and South Africa’s material power in relaton to their broader regions reveals that Nigeria is more powerful in West Africa than South Africa is in the southern African region.
South Africa’s relatve material power, in terms of both GDP has declined over tme, whilst Nigeria’s has either remained steady or actually increased in relaton to the broader region. As of this writing (December 2017), Nigeria’s share of West Africa’s GDP stands at 86 percent or the total, while South Africa’s share has decreased steadily since it joined SADC in 1995.
Without a doubt both Nigeria and South Africa are materially dominant within their regions. Yet they have historically displayed very diferent paterns of leadership in their respectve regions.
Nigeria was uninterested in playing a leading role in West Africa in the immediate post-Independence period. It pursued a regionally-isolated and pro-Western foreign policy, perceiving its neighbors as too small or ideologically radical to be relevant to its own development.
However, neighboring countries’ support to Biafran rebels during the Nigerian Civil War (1967–70), French meddling and material support for the Biafran seperatiests and the failure of Western allies, especially Britannia to support the beleaguered government caused Nigerian policy makers to adopt a more interventonist approach to regional afairs. In the 1970s, Nigerian scholars and policy-makers began to artculate a vision of Nigeria’s “manifest destny” to lead not only West Africa, but also Africa as a whole.
Under the leadership of General Yakubu Gowon, Nigerian began to conceive of the idea of a regional economic organizaton that would encompass the region’s Anglophone and Francophone states, would serve as a vehicle for Nigerian interests, and would counterbalance French infuence in the region.
Neighboring states were initally reluctant to sign up to ECOWAS, but Nigeria’s newfound oil wealth was able to fnance infrastructure projects, interest-free loans, politcal donations, and economic investments in neighboring countries, convincing skeptcal states to join ECOWAS.
As such, ECOWAS has always been an exercise in Nigerian hegemony, although the scale and ambiton of the country’s leadership has fuctuated with its periods of democratc transiton and reversal, as well as its economic fortunes.
The oil-fueled buoyancy of the 1970s, when ambitous protocols on trade liberalizaton and the free movement of people were signed, was followed by the economic stagnaton and unstable military juntas of the 1980s, which coincided with a period of stagnaton within ECOWAS.
It was not untl the 2000s, after transition to democratc rule under the stewardship of Olusegun Obasanjo, that Nigeria again began to artculate a strong leadership role for itself, both within ECOWAS and the African Union.
Nigeria has subsequently played a strong leadership role in ECOWAS’ security sector, but the intellectual deficit and sheer incompetence of Nigeria’s recent crop of leaders have account for the “irratonal” and inefcient domestc and foreign policies.
South Africa’s leadership ambitons within southern Africa have followed a diferent trajectory. Apartheid- era South Africa engaged in coercive leadership through the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and had ambitons to expand its dominaton of southern Africa through a planned Constellaton of Southern African States.
SADC itself was never a hegemonic project initated and driven by a regional power; rather, it was a counter-hegemonic organizaton explicitly designed to oppose and undermine the dominance of a hostle regional power.
As a result of this historical legacy, democratc South Africa avoids making explicit claims to regional or contnental leadership, as South African elites are highly cognizant of abstaining from any behavior reminiscent of the Apartheid years.
Clearly South Africa does have leadership ambitons, as evidenced by its promoton of “big ideas” such as the African Renaissance and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the fercely fought electon of South African diplomat Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to the positon of chairperson of the African Union, and the recent establishment of the South African
Development Partnership Agency. Yet its leadership ambitons are viewed with suspicion in African capitals, and Pretoria is ofen perceived as an aggressive and self-interested actor pursuing its regional trade agenda.
As South Africa is a democratc regional power with a legitmacy-defcit on the African contnent, it is perhaps more likely to engage in benevolent regional leadership driven by a legitimacy/signaling logic.
The country is the most developed on the continent and performs well on governance indicator, rule of law etc, so rent-seeking is unlikely to play a signifcant role in its regional foreign policy, and it is also more likely to take the demands of domestc interest groups into account in foreign policy-making.
Nigeria’s Behavior in the ECOWAS Trade Integraton Agenda: Reluctany Leadership
Although ECOWAS was initated by Nigeria and originally conceived as an economic integraton project and provides 70% of the funding, Nigeria has displayed an absence of firm leadership in relation trade intergration, even atimes even behaving in an obstructonist fashion.
The ambivalence and lack of implementaton and enforcement has caused Nigeria’s neighbors to become deeply frustrated and disillusioned with the idea of Nigerian leadership. Ghanaian President John Mahama has accused Nigeria of being a “protectonist bully,” actng as a barrier to regional trade and development.
Ok now we gotta be honest, Nigeria does not fulfl a leadership role in trade integraton within ECOWAS. But the reasons for this is not because its a protectionist bully, ad Ghanaian President had espoused, the reasons for this are rooted in Nigeria’s domestc politcs, involving a mix of legitmate oppositon from interest groups, and economic interests.
Nigeria’s action was a tacit response to the actions taking by the Ghanaian government to ban the sale of Nigerian movies in Ghana and the $10,000 tarrif Nollywood directors were mandated to pay to sell movies in Ghana. This goes against the free trade agreement that had been the core ot ECOWAS.
Emotionally provoking a trade war with a country with a GDP twice that of the combined 16 ECOWAS member state is akin to Canada provoking a trade war with the United States, in essence it borders on stupidity and is a gift to Nigeria’s intetedt groups.
Nigeria in response blocked the complete enforcement , saying regional trade liberalizaton would threaten Nigeria’s nascent manufacturing sector, which focuses on producing goods for its large domestc market.
Interest groups such as the Natonal Associaton of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) and the Manufacturing Associaton of Nigeria (MAN) are well organized, extremely vocal and almost universally opposed opposed to trade liberalization within the context of ECOWAS.
Furthermore, effectve implementaton of the trade agreement would challenge the systemic corrupton that takes place at Nigeria’s borders. The benefciaries of these corrupt practces have a vested interest in lobbying against the removal of trade barriers and in limiting traders’ access to informaton and legal remedies. . Nigeria cannot fully opt out of ECOWAS trade integraton, as doing so would hollow out its own hegemonic project.
Instead, it reluctantly partcipates while employing various formal and informal means to delay or impede the process of liberalizaton (lack of legal redress, turning a blind eye and/or actve collusion in corrupton at the border posts).
South Africa’s Behavior in SADC Trade Integraton: Coercive(ish) Leadership
South Africa has undoubtedly been the driving force behind SADC’s free trade area. However, its leadership is perceived as self-interested and subject to a signifcant degree of resentment and resistance from neighboring states, which has manifested in overlap and confict with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a rival trade integraton project championed by Zimbabwe.
SADC lacked a concrete integraton agenda untl South Africa joined the orga- nizaton in 1994. Almost immediately afer joining, South Africa tried to address the overlap problem by pressuring states that were members of both SADC and COMESA to “exercise their sovereign right to with- draw from COMESA,” as COMESA was deemed “too politcally, economically and culturally diverse, making it too complex and unwieldy to manage.
In September 1995, at South Africa’s insistence, the SADC Summit declared dual membership of SADC and COMESA incompatble. Lesotho.and Mozambique announced their intenton to withdraw from COMESA startng 1997, while Tanzania (2000), Namibia (2004), and Angola (2007) withdrew from COMESA at a later date.
However, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritus, the Seychelles, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe retained their membership of both SADC and COMESA. So while South Africa has both the ability and willingness to lead the region on trade maters, neighboring states perceive South Africa as a self-interested actor that does not have their best interests at heart.
Many SADC states fear a South African “takeover” of their domestc economies, and already South African companies have spread frst to SACU and more recently to Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (Amos 2010).
Furthermore, the liberalizaton and free-market principles of the SADC trade agenda present a threat of deindustrializaton in some countries, especially Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Unsurprisingly, it has ofen been Zimbabwe spearheading COMESA’s rival integraton agenda. Its competng customs union was launched in June 2009, under the chairmanship of Robert Mugabe, despite some COMESA member states expressing they were not adequately prepared for the customs unions.
This is indicatve of the “hedging strategies” on the part of some member states to infuence how the integraton agendas of the various regional initatves turn out, leading to “a regional race to consolidate customs unions in the region”
South Africa is stll trying to consolidate and harmonize the various overlapping integraton agendas within southern Africa. It appears to be the driving force behind the SADC–COMESA–East African Community (EAC) Tripartte Alliance, which aims to harmonize the various initatves with the eventual aim of constructng frst an FTA, then a customs union, that stretches from Cape Town to Cairo.
The priorites of the Tripartte Alliance mirror those of South Africa’s own policy doc- uments, including the New Growth Path, the Natonal Development Plan, and the Industrial Policy Acton Plans (Wentworth n. d.), but whether its leadership can prevail in the face of substantal resistance from secondary states remains to be seen.
…….to be continued