Trade and Economic Integration à l’africaine:
Review of James Thuo Gathii’s African Regional Trade Agreements as Legal Regimes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 524 pp, £ 79.
In 1989 a historic shift occurred in Soviet foreign policy. After many years of oppression and intervention (including armed force, like in Hungary in 1956 and in Prague in 1968), the USSR decided that it would no longer provide military backing to the Socialist regimes of Eastern Europe. These interventions were dictated and justified by the infamous ‘Brezhnev Doctrine’.1 Yet, in October 1989 Gorbachen abandoned the Brezhnev Doctrine. ‘His spokesman Gerasimov joked to the press that Moscow had adopted the ‘Sinatra Doctrine’ in Eastern Europe. ‘You know the Frank Sinatra song, I Did It My Way? Hungary and Poland are doing their way.’2
What Professor James Thuo Gathii describes in his recent fascinating monograph African Regional Trade Agreements as Legal Regimes,3 is no less than a ‘Sinatra’ approach in African trade; this approach essentially reflects a bold attempt by the African States to create Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) in their own way, instead of following successful paradigms of regional integration schemes, such as, the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) or, par excellence, the European Union (EU). Although African integration schemes were launched more than a hundred years ago,4 and trade integration in the African continent has recently gained momentum, paradoxically, the literature on African RTAs is scarce and generally of poor quality.5 Thus, Professor Gathii’s book constitutes an invaluable contribution.