Focus on human capital and improve science and technology, regional integration report advises

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Addis Ababa, 02 April 2016 (ECA) – To foster an inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development, most African countries agree that regional integration is a goal to which they should aspire.

The report Assessing Regional Integration in Africa VII: Innovation, Competitiveness and Regional Integration (ARIA VII) launched on Saturday 2 April during the African Development Week provides fascinating insights on how regional integration can foster innovation and competition in African countries.

Africa has spent much of the past decade investing in physical infrastructure, but it must not forget the development of human capital, the report urges. Investing in education, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will generate the knowledge base required to facilitate innovation and competitiveness. 

Prepared jointly by the Economic Commission for Africa, the African Union Commission and the African Development Bank, this seventh edition of the ARIA posits that regional integration by knitting together networks of institutions, people and markets generates innovation and related creative activities, positively impacting competitiveness, trade, growth and development.

“As countries grow in innovation capacities, they are likely to integrate even more with each other through investment, supply chains, trade, knowledge and mobility,” said Mr. David Luke, Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre at ECA.

The report states “innovation drives growth and structural transformation, and it offers unique opportunities to ‘late-developer’ countries to leap-frog into new technologies.  As innovative capacities grow, competitiveness is enhanced. ”

The Acting Chief Economist of the AfDB, Dr Charles Lufumpa, pointed out “Africa’s regional integration agenda has become more dynamic over the past five years”, as can be seen in the efforts towards the formation of a tripartite free trade area, the AU’s Agenda 2063 and negotiations on the establishment of a continental free trade area.  But energy and transport infrastructure severely constrain Africa’s competitiveness.

Mr. Sidi Ould Tah, the Director General of the Arab Bank for the Economic Development of Africa reminded the audience that the private sector was not given a role in the past, as an engine of economic growth. “To foster innovation, the role of the private sector needs to be expanded,” he argued.

Africa can learn from other countries such as India, which has invested much in building human capital for innovation. “Africa can take India’s example of the massive investment made in tertiary education,” suggested Mr. S Kuppuswamy, Representative of the Confederation of Indian Industry and Director of the Shapoorji & Pallonji Group.

Mr Tetteh Hormeku, Head of Programmes at Third World Network- Africa’s Secretariat concurs that “it’s not enough to create markets, we must focus on developing capacity and talent.”

Mr. Hormeku counselled African states to look at the “interface between policies and the commitments we take outside the continent. We must seize this to ensure policy coherence and a pro-development Pan-African intellectual property framework.” 

Discussion during this well-attended session, included intellectual property rights, improving the capacity of institutions, producing more female science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates.

Click here to access the publication.

Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826