Africa’s Economic Relations with the Indian Ocean Rim

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Dennis Rumley (ed.), The Political Economy of Indian Ocean Maritime Africa
Mario Scerri
New Delhi: Pentagon Press

This paper looks at the conditions which will determine the engagement of the four IORA member countries in sub-Saharan Africa - Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa – with the other economies in the association. These four countries are not viewed in isolation from other African economies, given the increasing importance of the regional economic agreements which link them to the rest of the continent. The theoretical lens which is used in this examination is that of an innovation systems approach to development. Using the broad perspective of this approach, the paper looks at the historical determinants of the viability of national systems of innovation in sub-Saharan Africa and at their current development prospects. The viability prospects of most African systems of innovation tend to be poor, due to a large extent to the conditions of their formation at independence and their subsequent post-colonial history. The paper argues that the only credible path to viability is that of an effective programme of economic and institutional integration across sub-Saharan Africa. The engagement of post-colonial African economies with the rest of the world, through trade and investment flows, has in general served to reinforce resource dependency and its attendant adverse effects on economic transformation. The engagement of these four countries with the other IORA economies is still incipient and thus holds a strong potential to be directed in a manner which can aid the needed transformation of their national systems of innovation onto a development trajectory. This developing political and economic relationship can help engender a rupture in the history of post-colonial African development or alternatively serve to reinforce its current path dependent course. The paper concludes with a brief exploration of the conditions for the two outcomes.

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