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Playing Boomerang: East African Elites, External Actors, and the Contestation of East African Regionalism

Nicolas de Zamaroczy
O.P. Jindal Global University
Nicolas de Zamaroczy
O.P. Jindal Global University
Open Panel

Abstract

In this paper I argue that East African regionalism is best understood as a contested site between two coalitions of East African elites—neoliberals and rent-extractors. Stymied in their effort to have their concerns addressed by East African states, neoliberals often make recourse to regional and international organizations to indirectly lobby for their goals. Borrowing a metaphor first developed by Margaret Keck and Kathyrn Sikkink, I term this “playing boomerang.” Some of the chief targets of East African neoliberals are the European Union (EU), World Bank (WB), and African Development Bank (AfDB), who can intervene either via material support such as financial and technical assistance, or via discursive practices which raise the stature of a given problem. Regional organizations such as the East African Community are a frequent partner in these EU actions. This understanding of East African regionalism avoids several problems with traditional theories of regional integration derived from the EU’s historical experience.