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COM2019: Africa still suffers from weak regional integration

Regional integration in Africa remains “weak”, according to preliminary findings of the Index of African Regional Integration (IARI) released Saturday in Marrakesh on the sidelines of the 52nd session of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (COM2019) of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

“The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a major step for Africa. Especially as the preliminary findings of the IARI 2019 indicate that regional integration in Africa remains low,” ECA said in a statement.

Developed by ECA, the African Union (AU) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), this index, which assesses the state of economic integration of African countries, reveals that the Southern African Development Community is the the most integrated region in terms of trade, with South Africa being the most integrated country on the continent, says the same source.

“In the five sectors analyzed (trade integration, regional infrastructure, productive integration, free movement of persons and macroeconomic integration), South Africa is at the top of the ranking, while South Sudan is the least integrated country because its poor performance in terms of regional infrastructure and financial integration,” the statement said.

The IARI also points out that “integration in services has contributed to more than 53% of the continent’s GDP, but the ratification of the protocol on free movement of people has been slow, despite the launch in 2016 of the African biometric passport. and the African Union Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons “, noting that the large infrastructure deficit on the continent remains a major obstacle to intra-regional trade.

“It is up to the Africans themselves to ensure that they benefit from this initiative through effective implementation of the AfCFTA mechanisms,” said the coordinator of the African Trade Policy Center, Trade Division. and regional integration of ECA, David Luke, quoted by the statement.

For her part, the resident representative of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Morocco, Leila Farah Mokaddem, remarked that despite the immense political support of the ZLECA, many challenges will be overcome during its implementation, to move intra-African trade (estimated between 15% and 18% today) to 25% by 2023.

In this regard, Ms. Mokaddem cited some obstacles to Africa’s competitiveness, including low productive capacity in Africa, high production costs, and large infrastructure deficits, adding that the large number of small markets and the presence of 16 landlocked countries complicates the situation. “We must not minimize the challenges, but it is important to emphasize the fact that we must change things for Africa to progress,” she said.

COM2019, March 20-26, under the theme “Fiscal Policy, Trade and the Private Sector in the Digital Age: A Strategy for Africa”, focuses on the contributions of both in the development of economic exchanges in Africa and in the strengthening of national budgetary policies, as well as in the improvement of tax revenue collection.

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