Inaugural Africa Regional Integration Index Launched

Alicia Nicholls

The Vision of the African Union is to
become an integrated, prosperous and
peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens
and representing a dynamic force in the
global arena.”
African Union Agenda 2063

In a not insignificant milestone in the thrust towards a united African continent, the African Union Commission, along with the African Development Bank (AfDB),and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA),  launched the inaugural Africa Regional Integration Index  last Sunday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during Africa Development Week.

Recognising that integration is key for securing prosperity and development for the continent’s peoples and promoting economic growth, the African Union has made it no secret that it plans to deepen the continent’s integration imperative, with plans for a continental free trade area by 2017. The African Union’s Agenda 2063 “sets out the vision for Africa’s integration path over the next 50 years” and is complemented by the Regional Integration Policy and Strategy (2014-2023) developed by the African Development Bank Group.

However, significant data gaps on the current levels of integration and their impact on countries within the continent exist. The inaugural African Regional Integration Index 2016 aims to remedy this lacuna by providing a monitoring and evaluation mechanism, with the concomitant aim of facilitating evidence-based regional policy making.

The current report focuses on the member countries of the 8 regional economic communities (RECs) recognised by the African Union: Community of Sahel–Saharan States (CEN–SAD),  Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Arab Maghreb Union (UMA).

The analysis is based on five dimensions (regional infrastructure, trade integration, financial and macroeconomic integration, productive integration and free movement of people) and 16 indicators.

Findings

The report shows that the EAC (consisting of Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda) has the highest level of integration among the RECs and “has higher than average scores
across each Dimension of Regional integration, except for financial and macroeconomic integration”. Overall, it found that trade integration had the highest scores while financial and macroeconomic integration had the lowest. Another interesting finding was that the biggest economies, such as Nigeria, Egypt and Algeria, were not among the best integrated.

In his foreword to the report, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Erastus Mwencha,noted that

Findings show that while progress is being made, with 28 high
performing countries across the eight Regional Economic Communities, average
integration scores stand at below half of the scale. It is time for Africa to build on this
and drive regional integration ever further forward.

African integration still has a long way to go and many of the challenges facing Africa in its integration efforts are not dissimilar to those we share in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). For instance, similar to CARICOM, Africa countries’ major trading partners are not each other but are external. Intra-African trade currently constitutes around 12% of total African trade, lagging behind other regional groupings. A myriad of logistical and other challenges have served as barriers to intra-African trade and a continental FTA would be a solution to removing many of these barriers.

I believe this index initiative is a laudable step, even more so that the results have been made available to the public. To know where one needs to go, one needs to know where one stands and the empirical data contained in this stocktaking report are an important first step in both measuring and monitoring the pace and impact of integration on the countries included and should serve as a basis on which reforms and policy decisions concerning the region can be made. It is something which we in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), whose  experimentation with integration predates Africa’s, should consider emulating as we seek to reform our own integration process.

The full report may be accessed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B. is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

 

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