What does the Data Tell Us About Dominatarian Theory of Regional Integration?

Date01 June 2021
Published date01 June 2021
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
25(1) 73 –100, 2021
© 2021 Jadavpur University
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/09735984211000567
What does the
Data Tell Us About
Theory of Regional
Francis Onditi1,2
This article contests that the classical regional integration theoretical
frameworks are too broad to bring out conceptual clarity and
explain the emerging interstate tensions. The paper identifies two
specific indicators that together can explain the dynamics: economic
domination and institutional (interest groups) domination. It evaluates
the applicability of the Onditi’s dominatarian theory by constructing
an alternative thinking framework—regional trade dominance (RTD), to
explain the dynamics of the regional integration based on trade data from
the East African Community (EAC) Development Strategy, 2016–2021.
The paper addresses this conceptual-policy lacuna by demonstrating
how Kenya’s economic performance and institutional (interest groups)
leverages have sustained its dominant interest, leading to interstate
cynicism and mistrust. The persistent mistrust driven by the perceived
asymmetric power balance among the EAC Partner States points to the
importance of framing the debate in a way that constructs the outcome
of the regional integration to accommodate both powerful states and
2 Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa.
1 School of International Relations and Diplomacy, Riara University, Nairobi, Kenya.
Corresponding author:
Francis Onditi, Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria 0083, South Africa; School
of International Relations and Diplomacy, Riara University, Nairobi 49940-00100, Kenya.
E-mails: onditifrancis8@gmail.com/; fonditi@riarauniversity.ac.ke
74 Jadavpur Journal of International Relations 25(1)
those perceived weak. In this case, the RTD analytical framework, offers
the option for constructing the outcome of a regional integration, either
as a noun, dominance or as an act of domination.
Dominance, RTD, regional integration, EAC, Kenya
World over countries with geographical and historical commonalities
and diversities can decide to engage in the processes that would lead to a
collective action across spheres of life-security, economy, culture, and
politics. This collectivism leads to the establishment of a community.
One aim of building a community is to treat market deficiencies such as
economic size, fragmentation of national markets, and the disenchanted
political systems (Tuluy 2016). In Africa, Pan-Africanists envisaged the
regional economic integration as the gateway for African states to
overcome not only the destructive politico-economic legacies of the
Berlin Conference (1884–1885), but also as a tool to unite Africans
across the globe (Tavares and Tang 2011). Examples of Pan-Africa
groupings can be gleaned from the works of Kwame Nkrumah, W.E.B.
Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Leopold Senghor, and
George Padmore. Since then, a number of frameworks have been
developed to drive the integration process, including: The Lagos Action
Plan and the Abuja Treaty established in 1980 and 1991, respectively;
the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) established in
July 2001; and the Free Trade Area (FTA)-created to facilitate fair trade
among African states. The assumption underlying most of these
frameworks is that, they would produce the same effect on trade benefits
for all member countries. However, over the years, it has emerged that
trade competitiveness and structural differences tend to produce
economic imbalances, elevating some countries to be more powerful or
dominant (Gibb 2009). In the East African Community (EAC), Kenya
emerges as the largest trading partner in the trading bloc (Buigut 2012;
Chingarande et al. 2017). The country’s economic and geopolitical
influence in the region produces different forms of dominance.
What is dominance? In the international relation studies, the concept
of dominance attracts diverse thinking. Legal scholars view dominance
as a sign of power, justifying the exercise of authority in the regional

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