Regional Integration for Africa’s Economic Prosperity resonates well with the thrust of the African Union to make Africa a borderless continent.
African regional integration was a dream of the Continent’s leaders which gave impetus to the creation of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, the forerunner to the current African Union.
Regional Integration for Africa’s Economic Prosperity is also in tandem with the African Development Bank’s High 5 priorities, of which one of them is “Integrate Africa.”
To date, many regional groupings are characterised by uncoordinated initiatives, political conflicts and low levels of intra-regional trade. Research by the African Development Bank shows that intra- African trade is the lowest of all global regions at approximately 15% as compared to 54% in the North America Free Trade Area, 70% within the European Union and 60% in Asia.
Integration is essential for Africa’s development as it brings with it a lot of benefits to individual countries and the continent as a whole, in that it strengthens competitiveness and trading capacity, market expansion and upgrading of value chains, as integration particularly: –
• Creates an appropriate enabling environment for private sector development (lower transaction costs, lower investment risks, markets);
• Develops infrastructure programmes in support of economic growth, development and regional integration;
• Provides a framework for coordinating policies and regulations;
• Develops strong public sector institutions and good governance;
• Reduces social exclusion and develops an inclusive civil society;
• Promotes regional peace and security and political engagement among members;
• Builds environmental programmes at the regional level;
• Strengthens the region’s interaction with other regions of the world;
•Improves intra – state connectivity; and
• Enhances and solidifies domestic reforms;
Africa therefore must unite not simply to enhance the continent’s weight in global affairs, but to meet the very basic needs of its population, for if we build for ourselves, then others will come.
Thus, it is pertinent to note that, in grappling with challenges facing regional integration efforts in Africa, proponents for greater unity identified the following as pre-requisites for success in integrating Africa: –
•Involving business groups, professionals and other sectors of society more actively in all integration issues;
•Achieving an appropriate balance between public and private economic initiatives;
•Reconciling the sometimes conflicting interests of countries with diverse sizes, natural resources and economic performances;
•Pursuing a pace of integration that is simultaneously ambitious and realistic; and
•Rationalising Africa’s many different regional institutions, in order to reduce overlap and inefficiency.
•Leveraging on such comparative advantage by promoting region building and regional integration which is a pre- requisite for sustainable development.
•Exploiting Africa’s huge infrastructure gap necessitating African policy makers in their pursuit of greater integration, to advance their efforts towards promoting peace, security and socio-economic development.
•Strengthening the capacities of institutional frameworks for intra African trade, including improved coordination between the African Union and sub-regional bodies.
•Putting in place effective domestic mechanisms for monitoring the consistency of national policies with regional frameworks need to be put in place.
•Inclusive development, where no one is left behind especially the private sector and the informal trading networks is the way to go.
Hon. Prof. Mthuli Ncube
Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Zimbabwe.