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African Regional Trade Agreements, Developmental Regionalism, Flexible Legal Regimes


There is a gap in the legal scholarship on African regional trade agreements (RTAs) that links law and development to narratives of developmental regionalism. This article addresses the gap by making the case for an explicit linking of Law and Development scholarship and Developmental Regionalism in African RTAs.

First, the article argues that the cross- pollination of the fields provides an opportunity for a more rigorous understanding of developmental regionalism in African RTAs. Second, the article that developmental regionalism as an analytical tool responds to and encapsulates the multidimensional character of African RTAs. Third, the article argues for a more rigorous engagement with the role of law in African RTAs.

Since African RTAs incorporate economic and non- economic ideas, the article against the failure narratives that are produced by dominant legal formalist thinking. These dominant modes of legal thinking privilege Eurocentric legal thoughts embedded in transplanted trade agreements. In conclusion therefore, the article argues that our understanding of African RTAs as ‘flexible legal regimes’ or in anti-formalist terms is deepened by an explicit linkage of the fluid concept of development to the selective implementation of the RTAs based on the priorities of African states.