Monetary integration must go hand-in-hand with economic integration in Central Africa, says economist

Johannesburg, 29 October 2013 -  Monetary integration alone is not enough: it needs to be accompanied by economic integration, the Cameroonian economist Simon Yannick Fouda Ekobena declared on Monday, October 28 in Johannesburg during a session of the eighth African Economic Conference (AEC).

Introducing a paper entitled “Monetary policy and economic growth in the CEMAC [Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa] zone”, Ekobena criticized the excess liquidity of banks in the CEMAC zone, emphasizing that this monetary mass negatively impacts economic growth in the six countries of the community.

He also said that external commercial exchanges have a positive effect on economic growth, but exchanges within the community remain weak.

Joseph Baricako, an economist at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and author of a paper called “Regional Integration and Growth: The Case of Central Africa”, which he presented during the session, confirmed that “Central Africa is the least integrated region on the continent”.

Despite its immense potential (oil, agriculture, mining, hydraulics, etc.), he said, Central Africa does not always clearly demonstrate its desire for integration to enable its citizens to benefit from the strong growth resulting mainly from the oil industry (with the exception of Central Africa).

“Integration in Central Africa is a series of promises and agreements that are scarcely followed up, if at all, but never implemented,” explained Baricako regretfully.

The panellists observed that regional integration in Central Africa suffers from a number of pitfalls, the worst of which are weak political commitment, poor mobilization of resources, and the incomplete application of the signed protocols required for it to be a success.

Baricako announced that the major difficulty that CEMAC leaders have always faced, namely the free circulation of goods and people, has almost been overcome. He explained that Heads of State from this part of the continent are increasingly coming to an agreement about the numerous advantages available to them with the creation of regional economic communities, including large-scale exchange markets and greater credibility in attracting backers.

Baricako believes that regional integration can be a source of economic growth in Central Africa.
He nevertheless invited citizens and leaders to overcome national egotism by setting up a real free-exchange zone, particularly among members of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

Organized jointly with the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the African Economic Conference runs until October 30.

It brings together Heads of State and experts in business and development from around the world to discuss regional integration in Africa and its role in strengthening economic growth and the well-being of citizens all over the continent.

The conference is an opportunity to study efforts in different sectors and fields, such as finance, road transport, energy pools, water resource management, tax convergences, and labour mobility.