1.         Theoretical Background:  
Regional Integration is a process in which states enter into a regional agreement in order to enhance regional co-operation through the establishment of regional institutions and rules. Regional integration is mainly an economic strategy aimed at collective self reliance and development in a competitive and hostile world environment. Regional integration could also extend to the political, social, cultural and religions spheres of co-operation. Its commercial and socio-political objectives could be structured to achieve greater strategic and security purposes. Further explained integration is the coming together of group of states or organizations with shared interests, problems and expectations with greater emphasis on collaborative behaviours rather than individualistic or conflicting actions. 

The basic assumption underlying regional integration is the belief that integration can bring greater prosperity than individual action. Regional integration is considered a vital element in the international strategy for development for both developed and developing countries. The United Nations recognized the importance of regional integration as a form of developmental strategy hence the establishment of special commissions for some of its backward members. An example of such commission is ECA, the Economic Commission for Africa.
            Part efforts at regional integration have often focused on removing barriers to free trade, in the region, increasing the free movement of people, labour, goods and capital across national boundaries, reducing regional conflicts and wars through enhanced security and confidence measures and adopting cohesive regional stance on issues of international significance. 

Historical Overview:
Regional Integration reflects a level of collective agreement and solidarity among states in a given geo-political entity in matters of trade capital, labour flows, foreign direct investment and integrated policies in mean of common interest. Such areas may further include the environment, climate change, Gross-border migration and international criminal activities. Phillipe De Lambarde and Luk Van Langen have defined Regional Integration as a World Wide phenomenon of territorial systems that increase the interaction between their components and creates new forms of organization co-existing with traditional forms of state-led organizations at the national level.
            According to Hans Van Ginkel, regional integration is the process by which states within a particular region increase their level of interaction with regard to economic, security, political and also socio-cultural issues2. Regional Integration involves the joining of individual states within a region into a larger whole. The degree of integration depends on the willingness and commitment of independent sovereign states to reduce or at best share their sovereignty.
            The 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries were characterize by internal conflicts and rivalries among the European powers. These rivalries had at its roots the need for integration. The process however was impeded by the characteristics of extreme rationalism which dominated the thinking of European leaders and statesmen of the era. The efforts of Napoleon Bonaparte, OHo Van Bismarck and Adolf Hitler to dominate Europe and indeed the rest of the world, during their time, were attempts at integration. These attempts however were not based on mutual benefits for all nor were the member countries and the people being integrated allowed determining whether they desired to do so and on what bases. As a result, those efforts led to serious political and economic upheavals which resulted in further European disintegration.
            According to Van Langenhove, regional integration initiatives should fulfill at least eight important function3.
1.         The strengthening of trade integration in the region
2.         The creation of an appropriate enabling environment for private sector development
3.         The development of infrastructure programmes in support of economic growth and regional integration.
4.         The development of strong public sector institutions of good governance.
5.         The reduction of social exclusion and the development of the inclusive civil society.
6.         Contributions to peace and security in the region.
7.         The building of environmental programmes at the regional level.
8.         The strengthening of the regions interaction with other regions of the world.
            In political, economic and strategic matters, the two create wars of the 20th century marked a most dramatic turning point in the evolutionary process that has characterized human interaction and inter state relationship in the modern world. Europe was confronted with the sole and highly desirable objective of establishing enduring peace and laying the foundation for economic prosperity in the continent. This was the bases of the vigour and frenzy with which European leaders began the process of reconstruction aimed at building a more united and prosperous Europe from the virus of 1945.
            The crises of the post-war order led to the emergence of a new global political structure. This new structure made obsolete the classical Westphalia concepts of a system of sovereign states to conceptualize world polities. The concepts of absolute sovereignty and the old legal definitions of nation states as ultimate and fully autonomous power began to crumble as they increasingly cost their meaning and relevance.
            Regional integration and globalization are the two new phenomena challenging the existing global order which was anchored on sovereignty and statism. These processes deeply affected the stability of the Westphalia state system, and the cold war arrangement. Thus, the new world order of Brotherhoods has become old and disorderly replaced by a rawer and more effective global order.
            Closer integration of neigh bouring economics is seen as a significant step in creating a larger regional market for trade and investment. This works as a spor to greater efficiency, productivity and competitiveness, not just by lowering border barriers but by reducing other related costs and risks.
            In broad terms, the desire for closer integration is often related to a larger desire for opening up to the outside world. Regional economic co-operation becomes means of promoting development through greater efficiency rather than as a means of disadvantaging others.
            Integration is not an end in itself but a process or strategy designed to support economic growth, greater social quality and democratization.
Regional intergration arrangements are a part and parcel of the present global economic order and this trend is now an acknowledge future of the international system. It has achieved a new meaning and new significance Regional integration arrangements are mainly the outcome of necessity felt by nation-states to integrate their economics in order to achieve rapid economic development. Decrease conflict and build mutual trusts between the integrated units.
            The nation-state system which have been the predominant pattern since the place treaty of west Phalia in 1948 is evolving towards a system in which regional groupings of states is becoming more important than sovereign states.
            There is a strong perception that the idea of state and its sovereignty has been made irrelevant by processes that are taking place at both the global and local levels. Walter Lippman believes that “ the true constituent members of the international order of the future are communities of state4. Henry can shares Lippman’s view about the rise of regional arrangements and commented that “the concept of sovereignty is likely to become in the future even more blurred and indistinct than it is at present.5
            This work will carry out a study of four major regional integration bodies. These are the EU, AU, ECOWAS, SADC and ASEAN.
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