Statement by Mr. Abdoulie Janneh at the Launch of the fourth Report on Assessing Regional Integration in Africa (ARIA IV)
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Launch of the fourth Report on Assessing Regional Integration in Africa (ARIA IV)

Statement by Mr. Abdoulie Janneh, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ECA

24 May 2010, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire

 

 

Your Excellency, Mr. Festus Mogae
Your Excellency, Mr. Jean Ping
Your Excellency, Mr. Donald Kaberuka
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

 

I am pleased to be here this afternoon for the launch of the fourth edition of the Assessing Regional Integration in Africa Report on Enhancing Intra-Africa Trade.  It is particularly pleasing that the Board of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) chose to be closely associated with the issuance of this report on the margins of this year’s meeting of the AfDB Board of Governors.

The technical aspects of the report were well discussed this morning and the insights gleaned from the debate will no doubt be captured in the actionable recommendations for advocacy to be submitted for the CoDA Board later one.  I will just flag four points here relating to accelerating regional integration, promoting regional trade, the key role of partnerships and the vital role of CoDA in continental initiatives.

 

Accelerating Regional Integration

It is now trite to state that Africa’s ultimate development depends on the success of its regional integration efforts.  Nevertheless, since regional integration is an on-going process it remains important for us to have a clear framework within which to act.  To my mind, there are three key elements that could continue to engage our collective efforts on regional integration and these relate to continuing to debate the shape and direction of regional integration in Africa, concerting our collective efforts on promoting transboundary cooperation in critical sectors and strengthening the institutions of integration in Africa particularly the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities.

The Assessing Regional Integration in Africa report fits well into this framework.  The first edition of ARIA, which was published in May 2004, was a landmark assessment of the overall status of regional integration in Africa. ARIA II examined and made recommendations on the issue of rationalization of the multiple integration groupings in Africa which is closely related to strengthening the institutions of integration. ARIA III addressed macro-economic policy convergence,  while ARIA IV, the subject and object of today’s launch, is on enhancing intra-African trade.  ARIA has therefore helped to promote debate on institutional and transboundary issues.

 

Promoting Regional Trade

The sector that is the subject of our gathering today is trade.  While a lot has been said about the benefits of the gains of international trade, the potential of intra-Africa has been a relatively neglected matter.  On average over the past decades, intra-African trade has hovered around 10-12 percent of Africa’s total trade.  To put this in perspective, 40% of North American trade is with other North American countries, and 63% of trade by countries in Western Europe is with other Western European nations.  ARIA IV attempts to address the questions why intra-Africa trade is so low and makes proposals on what can be done to improve the situation.  The data and analysis provides enough material for debate just as its focus on trade facilitation shows the imperative of tranboundary cooperation.  At the end of the day, however, it is the ability of African integration institutions to articulate a vision and implement a programme for the trading landscape of the continent such as free trade areas within and amongst various RECs that will make the crucial difference.

 

Key Role of Partnerships

It is not only the regional integration landscape that has many pressing concerns with a plethora of actors with common objectives.  This is also true of the development landscape.  This is one reason why the African Development Bank, the African Union Commission and the Economic Commission for Africa are determined to work in close partnership across several key areas to promote policy coherence and avoid duplication of efforts while harness their respective strengths.  The joint publication of ARIA is a concrete demonstration of this commitment just as was the establishment of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) by the three institutions. 

 

Vital Role of CoDA

CoDA as a key independent forum that promotes dialogue and advocacy on issues of importance to Africa’s development in the global context has also determined that regional integration is a priority area for its engagement. This is why the CoDA Board chose to participate in the launch of ARIA IV and is organizing a Forum on Financing Regional Integration tomorrow.  Our hope is that Africa’s regional integration agenda will benefit a great deal from the active interest and advocacy of the CoDA Board.  By lending their voices to vital issues of regional integration, the distinguished and influential membership of the CODA Board will contribute to the on-going debate while at the same time spurring greater transboundary cooperation and promoting well-functioning institutions of integration.

I hope that you will find in ARIA IV a publication rich in information, statistics and analysis on the burning issue of intra-African trade, including the nature and scope of trade in the informal economy as well as the gender dimensions of intra-African trade.  I commend this publication to African countries, African Regional Economic Communities and other key stakeholders as a guidebook and toolkit for advancing intra-African trade and the integration of this beautiful and bountiful continent of ours.

 Thank you for your kind attention.

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© 2012 Economic Commission for Africa