Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Relations

First Advisor's Name

Dr. John F. Clark

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Dr. John G. Oates

Second Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Dr. Jin Zeng

Third Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dr. Hilary Jones

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

committee chair


#Africa, regionalism, sub regional integration, regional economic communities (RECs), Pan-Africanism, Namibia, South Sudan, Liberia, economic development, ECOWAS, East African Community (EAC), Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Date of Defense



This dissertation advances new arguments about regional integration in Africa. It sheds light on the roles of regional economic communities (RECs) for small-economy states in Africa by examining the benefits and drawbacks of participating in such regional groups for both the small states themselves and their ruling regimes. The study suggests that RECs, rather than being agents of economic development, facilitate regime-boosting agendas of neopatrimonial regimes, promote a sense of (false) sovereignty, and entrench the political elite’s capture of the states.

The significance is threefold. First, it suggests that RECs provide an extension of neopatrimonial networks, which expand state-capture by specific political elites at regional levels. Neopatrimonialism refers to the lack of distinction between private and public interests in the state apparatus. For instance, in Africa’s neopatrimonial states, the political and economic interests of the elites largely determine state interests. Although the state appears to exist as a standalone neutral legal entity, private interest groups, who use their positions of power to amass wealth and influence, often engulf it. The political elites’ regional interests become the drivers of their states’ official foreign policies. Second, my study contextualizes regionalism. It emphasizes that RECs are constructions of new identities of a state, as visualized by the existing regimes. RECs offer opportunities to orient national identities, construct solidarity narratives and pursue diplomatic efforts that entrench the governing regimes’ ideological legitimacy to rule. Lastly, my research challenges the assumption that RECs will solve the small states’ development problems.





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