Kenya's overlapping membership in regional organisations

Publication type Article
Status Published
Occupation: Post-graduate student (Theory and History of International Relations)
Affiliation: People’s Friendship University of Russia
Address: Kenya
Journal nameAsia and Africa Today
EditionIssue 9

State interests are similar especially within a region as they have a lot of common objectives, and regional integration is the common avenue that most states have adopted for pursuing and achieving these shared objectives. However, it’s important to note that regardless of the shared objectives, most states will pursue their own national interests first before anything else. This has led to some countries choosing the strategy of overlapping membership hence belonging to multiple organizations within the region as is with the case of Kenya. Using realist theory and theories of integration, this article will analyse the overlapping membership of Kenya in the different regional organizations of economy and peace and security which have similar objectives. I will evaluate the commitment challenges it faces both politically and institutionally within the multiple organizations. In its quest to fulfill its vision 2030 objectives, Kenya has taken some measures which sometimes pose a challenge to integration in the region, but it has to find ways to balance them out. While trying to pursue their own “personal” interests as a country through other organizations outside the region and continent, such as the European Union, Kenya faces particular challenges in the region. Since Kenya economically is already stronger than other countries in East Africa, it is inevitable for it to not constantly face competition so it has to continually improve and better itself to maintain its status in the region. Finally, the author concludes with the measures Kenya can take to maximize and achieve its interests without compromising the need and importance of regional integration but mainly without jeopardizing its strategic and economic position in the region.  

KeywordsKenya, regional integration, regional organizations, regional economic communities, peace and security, multiplicity and overlapping membership
Publication date15.10.2018
Number of characters24424
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1 Regional integration has changed its traditional meaning and does not necessarily mean geographically bound member states. Over the past decade regional integration has become a different phenomenon which undermines the geographical location and puts shared, common objectives and interests within independent states to be of greater concern. This does not mean geographical location is not important, it still is, but there are more and more organisations coming up that are not necessarily geographically bound as expected.
2 For example, “The membership of the Organisation of American States includes all states within North, South, and Central America, but geographers have never viewed both continents as a single well-defined region” [5]. So is the case with the Commonwealth, a regional organisation with the membership dispersed around the globe. Or the case of Russia which not only focusses on the Commonwealth of Independent States but also such Asian countries as Japan and South Korea [4]. It is easier for smaller sub-regional organisations to work and implement issues faster as compared to a regional organisation which has more members. As a result, there has been an increase in sub-regional organisations like the African Economic Community established by the African Union (AU) through the
3 1991 Abuja Treaty with the goal of achieving a single monetary zone for Africa by 2028. Various sub- regional groupings have proceeded highly unevenly, however, and some states have sought to break free of the laggards by creating their own fast tracks towards greater monetary cooperation with regional organisations like East African Community being among the first to form a customs union. This means that in countries trying to pursue their own interests, overlapping membership with similar roles has become common all over the world and it is not unique to one region. Russia belongs to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); CSTO and SCO both seek to enhance regional security, but there is a divergence in their approaches and aims in this regard. CSTO is focussed on more traditional military coordination, while SCO is aimed at harmonizing approaches to non- traditional security challenges. EurAsEC and SCO both seek to foster economic coordination, but EurAsEC is focussed on micro-level customs coordination, while SCO is currently centred on large-scale projects and energy cooperation. This split in functions allows Russia to keep certain “strategic” areas of multilateral coordination within frameworks it has strong control over. So one state can belong to as many regional organisations it wishes to as long as it is able to achieve its objectives without compromising its interests and relationships with other states.


5 The quest for regional integration in Africa has long been entrenched in the history of the continent. Anchored in its diversities, regional integration in Africa has been emerging from the politics of anti- colonialism, but on the basis of pre-existing colonial arrangements [10]. Such is the case of the East African Community where Kenya has always been a dominant member right from its inception in 1919 by the colonialists, to the collapse after independence and the revival towards the end of the 20th century. Most countries in the region got independence almost at the same time and the progress in development has been slow for all, leading to the states realising the most rational thing to do is to integrate as they have common interests. Daughert and Pfalzgraff define integration as “a process leading to a condition of political community”. The integration process is perceived by integrations theorists as consensual, based principally on the development of shared norms, values, interests or goals [9].
6 Kenya is a developing country but regionally it is one of the countries with a strong economy and it is projected to grow even faster. This has resulted in a number of measures taken by the country. The key one is Vision 2030, which outlines some of the achievements that the country needs to obtain by that year. As a result, the most rational and realistic response has been that it has ended up in multiple overlapping regional organisations (herein after referred to as RO’s) as a strategy for achieving the several objectives at the same time.
7 According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), benefits may also accrue at the organisational level, with one institution benefiting from the experiences of another regional economic community that has completed a particular process through having access to its members. This may be the case for tariffs, such as the design and implementation of a common tariff nomenclature or a tariff phase-down process; a plan, such as a regional infrastructure master plan; or an instrument, such as the design and implementation of overload controls and axle-load limits [6]. Even though AfDB is mainly addressing the issue of economic objectives but experience especially of methods that have worked on another RO transported to another is very important especially since the issues are almost similar across the RO’s.

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