Regionalism and African agency: negotiating an Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and SADC-Minus

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JournalThird World Quarterly
DateE-pub ahead of print - 27 Aug 2015
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1845-1865
Original languageEnglish


This article investigates the regional dynamics of African agency in the case of negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and a group of Southern African countries, known as SADC-Minus. I argue that these negotiations were shaped by a pattern of differentiated responses to the choice set on offer under the EPAs by SADC-Minus policymakers and by a series of strategic interactions and power plays between them. I offer two contributions to an emerging literature on the role of African agency in international politics. First, I argue for a clear separation between ontological claims about the structure-agency relationship and empirical questions about the preferences, strategies and influence of African actors. Second, I suggest that in order to understand the regional dynamics of African agency it is important to pay close attention to the diversity and contingency of African preferences and to the role of both power politics and rhetorical contestation in regional political processes.

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