2016 Public Administration Analysis

Support to Regional Cooperation and Integration in Africa – What Works and Why?

Fredrik Söderbaum, Therese Brolin

Regional cooperation and integration in Africa has deepened and expanded considerably during the last two decades, partly as a result of intesified outside support and financing. Over time, Sweden has provided substantial support in to regional cooperation in Africa.

There is a knowledge deficit about the logic and consequences of external support to regional cooperation and integrations in Africa. The aim of the study is to investigate what works and why, and to assess the implications for a donors like Sweden.

The report was presented during the seminar Sweden’s support for development in Africa.  

Main findings

  • Because of different understandings of regional development, insufficent monitoring and knowledge, there is little agreement about what constitutes a good result, how it should be evaluated, and whose result should count and why.
  • Sweden tends to repeat the same mistakes as other donors, namely to focus on the level of regional integration/cooperation and capacity building of ROs instead of on development outcomes and poverty reduction. This results in confusion of means and ends and a strong emphasis on activities and outputs instead of long-term development results.
  • Donors strong focus on state-led ROs miss the fact that they tend to demonstrate “implementation gaps” and marginalize both private business and civil society actors.


  • Clarify ends and means.
  • Go beyond a narrow focus on the AU and the RECs and support both top-down and bottom-up regionalism.
  • Align and coordinate national, regional and multilateral development cooperation.
  • Take the regional political and economic context into consideration when designing and implementing regional donor programmes. Ensure African ownership.
  • Carefully consider the implications of various aid modalities so as to make more realistic and strategic goals for regional development cooperation.
  • Increase knowledge within relevant ministries and agencies about the relevance of both regional development cooperation and regionalism in Africa.

Fredrik Söderbaum, Professor, School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg

Therese Brolin, PhD student in Human Geography, University of Gothenburg