Regional integration remains the key to transforming Africa’s fragmented economies, a United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) official has said.
The statement was made on Thursday by Stephen Karingi, director of Regional Integration and Trade Division at the UNECA, while presenting an assessment of progress on regional integration in Africa at the May 11-13 Expert Group Meeting.
“African countries should harness opportunities embedded in integration initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement to foster post-COVID-19 economic recovery and transformation,” a UNECA statement quoted him as saying.
According to the UNECA, although commendable progress has been made in advancing integration agendas, challenges remain.
“Progress has been made in boosting intra-Africa trade like the adoption of industrialization policies and strategies,” Karingi said. “But Africa continues to trade more with the outside world than with itself.”
He noted that macroeconomic integration and convergence is essential to accelerating intra-regional trade. Five regional economic communities already have primary macroeconomic convergence criteria.
“But Africa’s integration and socioeconomic development is impeded by huge infrastructure gaps. Production integration on the continent remains uneven and weak,” Karingi said.
The Expert Group Meeting is being held as part of the ongoing 54th session of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development underway in Dakar, capital of Senegal.
During the meeting, delegates from various African countries raised concerns on how slowly the continent was integrating and how prepared the continent was in addressing the aftermath of COVID-19 and the Ukraine crisis.
Karingi said that Africa’s integration process is being hindered by difficulties with infrastructure, financing and policy issues like rules of origin that are a challenge for a common open market.
He said a concerted effort is required from all the regional economic communities, key partners and stakeholders to tackle integration challenges.
Karingi emphasized that African countries should implement the AfCFTA agreement so as to withstand future economic shocks and maintain sustainable growth in the post-COVID-19 era. Enditem