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Assessment of progress on regional integration in Africa: UNECA

Addis Ababa:  Africa’s regional economic communities (RECs) are undertaking various activities and programmes in many areas of integration. This report is intended to capture the progress made in key integration areas, such as trade, investment promotion, infrastructure, the free movement of persons, macroeconomic convergence, agriculture and food security, peace and security, social affairs, tourism, industry and planning, and monitoring and evaluation. Progress made, challenges encountered and the future outlook in each of the abovementioned sectors are analyzed. The report also assesses the status of integration at the continental level, especially at the level of the African Union Commission (AUC), by capturing the progress made in the implementation of the key African Union integration programmes and initiatives.

Finally, some best practices and experience in regional integration in Africa are highlighted, including the Tripartite Free Trade Area initiative involving the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). The report looks at progress made in the tripartite negotiation process as well as the implementation of various agreed programmes.

  • C. Some best practices in regional integration

29. Some best practices in RECs are making a difference worth noting. On trade and market integration, for instance, COMESA, EAC and SADC are implementing an online non-tariff barrier reporting and monitoring mechanism designed to enable private-sector and public-sector operators to register complaints about such barriers. To date, 329 complaints have been registered on the system, out of which about 227 (69 per cent) have been resolved. The three RECs are also vigorously pursuing the tripartite FTA arrangement which will unify their combined market space of over 500 million people, thus providing a strong springboard and impetus towards realizing the continental FTA by 2017.

At their second summit, held in Johannesburg, South Africa in June 2011, the heads of State and government of the three RECs signed a Declaration Launching the Negotiations for the Establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area, and adopted a road map for establishing the tripartite FTA as well as a set of negotiating principles, processes and an institutional framework. The tripartite FTA will comprise three pillars-market integration, infrastructure development and industrial development. The movement of business persons will be negotiated on a separate track. Other RECs are encouraged to pursue similar consolidation efforts to help advance the process towards a continental FTA, a continental customs union and an African common market.

30. Concerning the free movement of people and the right of establishment, the ECOWAS regional passport is one of the best examples of a common regional travel document used as a means to improve the free movement of people. The passport, bearing the ECOWAS emblem on the cover, can be used to travel internationally, and is currently used in Benin, Guinea, Liberia, the Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. As of 1 January 2013, Rwanda is issuing visas on arrival for all African nationals. In the EAC, Kenya and Rwanda are implementing a bilateral agreement to allow citizens from each country to freely establish in the other. The agreement also waives all work permit fees. Kenya is implementing a similar agreement with Uganda.

Payment systems

31. M-Pesa is a branchless banking service designed to enable users to complete basic banking transactions without the need to visit a bank. Customers can deposit and withdraw money from a network of agents that includes airtime resellers and retail outlets acting as banking agents. Currently, M-Pesa has over 10 million subscribers and carries out over 2 million daily transactions, facilitating over $415 million per month in person-to-person transactions in Kenya alone. Using the public-private partnership model, M-Pesa is a significant best practice for regional financial systems that deliver affordable, safe and efficient financial services to cross-border traders, including those in the unbanked and rural population.

  • D. Conclusion and recommendations

32. The RECs and their member States are moving at different speeds in the integration process. There has beeen notable progress on various fronts. Nonetheless, addressing some key areas highlighted in the following recommendations can make a tremendous difference in moving the integration agenda forward.

(a) Member States should give adequate priority to mainstreaming agreed regional integration programmes and projects at the national level and rigorously implementing them, and should ensure that there is collective dialogue with the private sector and civil society in order to strengthen their engagement in the process;

(b) The RECs’ role of rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the integration process should be strengthened;

(c) There are many best practices in the continent, and they are increasing. Member States and RECs need to have a platform to share and emulate these practices in order to move the regional integration process forward;

(d) The ongoing work on alternative sources of financing through the AU should be supported by the RECs and member States in order to finance integration programmes and translate them into reality, and RECs which have not done so should also start reflecting on how to put in place their own alternative sources of financing.

  • Extracts from:  Assessment of progress on regional integration in Africa, prepared by the UNECA for the Meeting of the Committee of Experts of the Sixth Joint Annual Meetings of the ECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and AU Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire 21–24 March 2013. 
  • The report, 10 pages, can be accessed here.
19 March 2013
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