Assessing Regional Integration in Africa: Rationalizing Regional Economic Communities

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A good starting point in fostering a people centred approach to regional integration would be to educate the citizens of various African countries on their rights deriving from different regional agreements and on the benefits of integration. Armed with such knowledge, citizens would be more inclined to demand enforcement of their rights and to provide the much-needed support for the integration initiative.

Just as important is to solicit information from citizens concerning their expectations in regard to regional integration and how it is affecting their lives. This would further help to demystify the integration process and persuade citizens to embrace it. To this end, it will also be critical to put appropriate mechanisms in place to enable the people to express their views and concerns. Suggestions have been made for direct citizen representation and popular participation in regional matters through consultations between regional bodies, governments, national parliaments, the private sector and civil society groups.

To succeed, however, this approach would also need to be accompanied by a genuine commitment from all concerned to the removal of the existing obstacles to the implementation of agreed decisions and to the establishment of a mechanism capable of ensuring fair distribution of the benefits of regional integration. Failure to address the highlighted problems within the current regional integration set-up in Africa will only see them get worse as the continent moves to implement the next wave of its integration initiatives. This is so primarily because of the enormous size of these new regional structures and the fact that the entities from which they are to be constructed have not always seen eye-to-eye on numerous issues.

Aside from advocating public participation in regional integration processes as a way of ensuring inclusiveness of the initiative, another complementary method of pursuing the same goal would be to empower ordinary people so that they are able to take advantage of the benefits of integration. Because SMMEs and informal businesses, rather than large firms, can help to create low-skilled jobs capable of employing more people due to their labour intensive nature, 70 they are best suited to assume this role.

With the relevant support, SMMEs and informal businesses would ensure that more people at the grassroots level gain access to the opportunities that arise from more open regional markets. Long seen as engines for economic growth in developing countries, SMMEs have received the backing of the World Bank and other international aid agencies through targetted assistance with the stated aim of speeding up growth and poverty reduction.

In this way, ordinary people would not only be able to participate in the processes that are shaping the regional integration initiative, but would also be empowered to enjoy the outcomes thereof. The need to give special attention to SMMEs as the process of integration in Africa unfolds has been highlighted by a number of commentators. Sikuka, for instance, has remarked that "[t]he push towards regional integration in eastern and southern Africa depends on On the continental front, the NEPAD initially adopted a strategy aimed at encouraging a change of mindset among African governments and big businesses involving provision of support for SMMEs with the object of facilitating their transition from the informal sector to the formal sector.

While the NEPAD's programme of action was seen as holistic and comprehensive, it was criticised for its top-down approach and for failing to give the African people an opportunity to give their inputs.

Assessing Regional Integration in Africa II

These include: putting SMMEs at the centre of all policies aimed at developing the private sector; putting in place policy instruments and measures to facilitate registration, operation and access to finance by SMMEs; and exploring various ways of assisting SMMEs in the informal and formal sectors. The reality on the ground is that SMMEs in Africa are confronted by multiple challenges that prevent them from functioning optimally and which limit their prospects of success.

At the national level, most governments lack an integrated policy to develop and support SMMEs. Although some of the companies from Asia operating in areas such as the natural resources sector have benefitted the continent through their investments, many others happen to be SMMEs operating in direct competition with local SMMEs.

The Asian SMMEs are often willing to do business in places where other foreign businesses usually do not consider it worthwhile or profitable to go. Having looked at the situation of SMMEs in Africa and the difficulties they encounter, the challenge is to translate some of the suggestions made on how to bolster them into pragmatic solutions. Such solutions must be focussed on ensuring that SMMEs have the desired developmental impact and improve the living conditions of ordinary people. They must also ensure that individual success at the level of the firm, contributes towards the competitiveness of the national economies.

The key argument made in the preceding sections is that much more needs to be done to provide for a broader and more sustained participation by civil society in regional integration in Africa if the initiative is to succeed and have a meaningful impact. A further argument is made that, in as much as SMMEs have the potential to be a major source of economic growth and to facilitate socio-economic emancipation of ordinary people in Africa, the provision of policy guidance and resource support is essential for their success.

Assessing Regional Integration in Africa II | United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Several proposals are advanced in this section as to how some of the desired improvements may be achieved. First, it is critical for African leaders to move beyond merely voicing their support for regional integration and to commit to becoming the agents of the changes for which Africa longs. To this end, they must put measures in place to ensure that regional institutions become more than mere talk shops and empower them to be able to implement their mandate successfully.

At present, many of the African regional institutions lack the necessary power to implement their decisions and objectives. Past experiences have taught that, for Africa to avoid its earlier mistakes, African leaders must make citizens the focus of regional integration initiatives instead of leaving the process to market forces. Secondly, Africa must develop a practical institutional framework that can support effective public participation in regional integration policy making. This should provide details of the channels open to members of the public to give their inputs, state the criteria to be used to determine who is eligible to participate, and make it easily accessible.

Thirdly, African governments must devise ways of integrating civil society organisations and the work that they do into the broader regional integration agenda. The governments must take responsibility for disseminating information relating to regional integration to national and regional civil society groups and at the same time be receptive to inputs from these groups.

Fourthly, there is also a need to rectify the current situation where corporations have a disproportionate influence over the debates on development in Africa merely because they have access to more resources.

In Ellis, S. Muhabie Mekonnen Mengistu Mwanasali, Musifiky War, Peace, and Reconciliation in Africa. Radomir Kana and Monika Mynarzova Global Security and the Role of the European Union.

Assessing Regional Integration in Africa VIII: Bringing the Continental Free Trade Area about

Rugumamu S. Teshome Mulat United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Join as an Editor-in-Chief. Open Access. Download Certificates. Therefore, similar to other trading bloc arrangements, it is difficult to neatly place the CFTA under one of the five stages of regional economic integration. The wide coverage of the CFTA is expected to ease the subsequent process of further regional economic integration in Africa. The harmonization of norms and regulations related to services typically takes place with the establishment of a [single market].

It is however important that trade in services is negotiated alongside trade in goods, since services are inputs into the production of trade in goods and the sector contributes a substantial share to the output of most African economies.

Assessing progress of regional integration in Africa

Some common investment rules are typically covered under the free movement of capital required by a [single market], whereas an [economic union] would usually contain a fully-fledged common investment policy. Investment issues are rarely covered in free trade areas FTAs.

The CFTA Agreement however is expected to include a sub-agreement on investment that is broad in scope, covering both goods and services.

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The provision of common rules for state parties in introducing incentives would help to encourage investment into African countries to accelerate development, and would also help to avoid any race to the bottom. A continent-wide dispute settlement system for investment disputes to be settled among state parties will also be key. Intellectual property and competition policy would typically only be required under an [economic union], the fifth and final stage of regional economic integration.

Since few African countries have the institutional capacities and expertise to utilize trade remedy instruments such as anti-dumping, safeguards and countervailing measures, the scope of the CFTA however also covers these areas. Competition policy is a particularly important instrument for regulating unfair trade practices and providing clarity to businesses.

Inclusion of a mechanism for regulating competition and facilitating dispute settlement early on will also help to build confidence in the CFTA. The CFTA Agreement is also expected to include an appendix on the movement of natural persons involved in services and investment, an area of cooperation that is usually not covered until the establishment of a [single market]. This is needed to transform the opportunities provided through the liberalization of trade in goods, services and investment. This initiative goes significantly beyond the requirements of a traditional FTA and is aimed at addressing the constraints and challenges of intra-African trade which are organized under the clusters of trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity, trade-related infrastructure, trade finance, trade information and factor market integration.

Effective implementation of the BIAT initiative will be crucial to minimizing the challenges and maximizing the gains of tariff liberalization, and ensuring that all African firms and countries are able to take advantage of the CFTA.

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

These data show the average scores for rather than Work is under way on the second edition of the Index, which will include a sixth dimension on social integration and on gender and will, in addition to measuring within-REC integration, compare how all African countries integrate with the rest of the continent.

This is also the expectation for the CFTA. Most intra-African trade occurs between African countries that are members of the same regional grouping.


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They also suggest that the immediate effects of the CFTA — positive and negative — are unlikely to be dramatic in many countries. The CFTA amounts to a step, rather than a leap, forward for African integration, which will help advance all countries to an improved level of trade integration. The incremental approach can reduce the structural adjustment costs associated with trade liberalization, and still lead to the trade gains, including improved conditions for forming RVCs, permitting better economies of scale, diversifying exports and facilitating the trade growth forecast by numerous trade models.

The country will reduce tariffs on imports from other COMESA members over a three-year period, with a 40 per cent reduction on duties in followed by a 30 per cent reduction in and another 30 per cent in Rules of origin for product types covering more than 60 of the 96 Harmonized System chapters had already been agreed on by end-May The CFTA negotiations continued during and , including the first meeting of technical working groups and discussions on modalities.

The remainder of will see these bodies convening frequently, with a further two meetings of the Negotiating Forum. The CFTA negotiations are in progress and so it would be premature to provide a detailed outline of current expectations as to form and content. On the basis of the draft of the negotiating text, and the negotiations and technical work undertaken, the envisaged scope of the CFTA covers agreements on trade in goods, services, investment, and rules and procedures on dispute settlement. The constituent parts of these agreements and their appendices are expected to cover a range of provisions that aim to facilitate trade; reduce transaction costs; and provide exceptions, flexibilities and safeguards for vulnerable groups and countries in challenging circumstances.

It is anticipated that agreements on intellectual property rights and competition policy will be tackled in phase 2 of the CFTA negotiations. Crucially, countries are aligning their interests in a comprehensive agreement that achieves substantially more than tariff reductions and that offers safeguards and flexibilities, which are important for ensuring that the gains from the CFTA are maximized and shared equitably.

Though there remain substantive topics to discuss, the negotiations have achieved considerable momentum and build on a long history of African integration. The CFTA has a notable commitment at the highest policy-making levels.