Africa needs to step up economic integration: Report

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ANKARA

Africa needs to step up productive and infrastructural integration amid the COVID-19 economic recovery process, suggested a report.

African Regional Integration Index (ARII), a joint publication of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank, and the African Union Commission, provides up-to-date data on the status of regional integration in Africa.

The report assessed the regional integration status and efforts of the countries that are members of the eight regional economic communities recognized by the African Union.

The report welcomed the recent endorsement of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by more than 50 African countries. “It is time for quantum leaps. Regional integration is the glue that will make that happen.”

AfCFTA is a free trade area founded in 2018, with trade commencing as of Jan. 1 2021. It was created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 African Union nations.

Africa’s economic growth is projected to exceed 4% in 2019-2020, an increase from 3.5% in 2018.

The report said for free trade to happen seamlessly, African countries need to implement the Protocol on the Free Movement of People, which will in turn enable traders and investors to operate beyond their national borders.

Spurred by AfCFTA, more than 40% of African countries are projected to post growth of at least 5% this year as commodity prices rise and domestic demand and infrastructure investments boost growth, according to the report.

Jean-Guy Afrika, the African Development Bank’s Acting Director for the Regional Integration Coordination Office, said: “The continent will only grow economically if we allow the free flow of goods and services across our borders, allow free movement of people, and scale up regional value chains.

“As a matter of urgency, we bring down tariff and non-tariff barriers, encourage cross-border trade, and open the African skies,” Afrika added.

Alhaji Rashid Kibowa, Director of Trade at the East African Community Secretariat, said: “There is a need for more dialogue on the ARII and methodology issues to expand the scope of coverage of the assessed integration areas.

“The fundamental issues behind the ARII ought to be whether integration exists for Africa and whether it is effective in terms of achieving poverty reduction and socio-economic transformation for the continent,” Kibowa said at the presentation of the report held virtually last week.

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