The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has weakened decades of improved integration among countries in Africa. In what seemed like a lost decade, African economies are urged to accelerate efforts towards regional integration.
A virtual meeting was held to present the Regional Integration Index (ARII) report to participants from three regional blocs.
The index report, a joint publication by three institutions; the Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank and the African Union Commission displays current data on the status of regional integration in Africa. The report assesses the level of integration for every regional bloc and its member countries.
Furthermore, the index report underscores the importance of rallying a new commitment to regional integration within Africa.
Discussants indicated that the African Continental Free Trade Area, which began in January 2021, and the impact of Covid-19 on movements has made regional integration more critical.
Moreover, the Director of Trade at the East African Community Secretariat, Alhaji Rashid Kibowa indicated that the index report highlights three major challenges facing the continent. These include the Covid-19 pandemic, implementation of the AfCFTA, and poverty reduction.
“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.”Alhaji Rashid Kibowa, Director of Trade at the East African Community Secretariat
The report found that overall scores for Southern and Eastern countries showed significant improvements. The index indicates that on the whole, the level of integration on the continent is low, with an average score of 0.327.
Furthermore, the report shows that Africa is poorly integrated on the productive and infrastructural sectors. Yet, these are key influencers upon which all the other aspects of the index depend.
“The latest edition of the African Regional Integration Index is not only timely but handy. [This] is to help …countries identify their main strengths and weaknesses with its regional integration performance,” said Stephen Karingi, the Director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division of the East African Community.
Moreover, Jean-Guy Afrika, AfDB’s Acting Director for the Regional Integration Coordination Office, intimated that the Covid-19 pandemic has deepened vulnerabilities of the continent, especially the really low levels of intra-African trade and the rise of non-tariff barriers.
“The continent will only grow economically if we allow the free flow of goods and services across our borders. Also, 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,” Jean-Guy Afrika added.
The Regional Integration Index was presented to the tripartite region of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). This meeting triggered a renewed call for building robust supply chains and connectivity as a way of increasing efforts towards regional integration.
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