Addis Ababa, 23 March 2019 (ECA) – The African Development Bank (AfDB), the government of Morocco and COMESA call for a single strategy and commitment from all partners to ensure that regional integration moves into the next phase, which is implementation.
On the margins of the 52nd session of conference of Ministers being held from 20-26 March 2019, in Marrakech, Morocco the conveners briefed officials of the ministries of trade, finance, industry, economic development and planning, private sector, civil society organizations, academia, development partners and regional and international organizations on the recommendations of the Economic Commission for African regional integration flagship reports:
- Assessing regional integration in Africa (ARIA) IX: next steps for the African Continental Free Trade Area
- The African Regional Integration Index report (2019)
The objectives of this event were to provide key messages and recommendations resulting from the African regional integration research and engage member States in considering how best to approach the AfCFTA phase II negotiations.
The side event was chaired by Mr. David Luke, Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Center (ATPC), Regional Integration and Trade Division (RITD) who called on all member countries to ratify the AfCFTA so that all efforts can now focus on implementation of the agreement. He said that the ground work has been set by the report launched on Wednesday, which set the tone for further discussions.
The report assesses current trends of regional integration in Africa, specifically on progress made in the areas of macroeconomic convergence, trade, investment and markets, free movement of people and infrastructure. including those from landlocked countries in the context of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, governance, peace and security.
The call was echoed by Ms. Leila Mokadem, Country manager and Resident representative of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Morocco who recommended that the way forward is “to ensure that funding institutions pump resources into infrastructure development to counter week production structures, the solution is for Africa to work together under a continental strategy.”
She further alluded to the importance of e-commerce and the report recommendations on the growing importance of digital trade, as business conducted through e-commerce platforms and e-payment systems continue to grow.
Mr. Kipyego Cheluget, Assistant Secretary General for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) emphasized the importance of developing free trade instruments that promote free movement of people and goods. This should be accompanied by effective monitoring and evaluation strategies as stipulated in the 2019 edition of the African Regional Integration Index. whose objective is to monitor and evaluate the status of economic integration among African countries.
The report also provides a basis for member States to track their progress within their respective regional economic communities and within the continent. The preliminary results of the 2019 report indicate that regional integration in Africa remains low across the five dimensions that are analyzed: trade integration, regional infrastructure, productive integration, free movement of people and macroeconomic integration.
The event ended with a question and answer session on regional integration dynamics in Africa and specific policy recommendations on how to support the regional integration process. The panelists also outlined the next steps for implementing the AfCFTA agreement and specific recommendations on options for the AfCFTA phase II negotiations.
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