Africa has a significant way to go if all countries are to reach the frontier of what the best performers are achieving in the area of regional integration. Out of all the Regional Economic Communities, the East African Community was cited as the most-integrated.
The greatest divergence in regional performance is in the area of financial integration and macroeconomic policy convergence. Interestingly, countries with the largest economies do not always perform the best.
The Africa Regional Integration Index (ARII) Report – African’s first ranking to measure progress on regional integration – was launched in Addis Ababa during African Development Week. The weeklong conference, convened by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union Commission (AUC), discusses some of the most important policy issues relating to development. The ARII is a key initiative to collect data on the impact of regional integration. It is a strategic collaboration between the AUC, African Development Bank (AfDB) and the ECA.
Regional integration is often cited as a key component of economic transformation. However no mechanisms have been put in place to date to measure how different African countries fare. This flagship report assesses the current situation on the continent and highlights the gaps.
The ARII looks at 16 indicators across five dimensions. These are practical metrics such as the cost of roaming or the number of intra-regional flights, as well as more technical metrics such as the level of custom duties and merchandise trade. Countries that scored highly include Kenya, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon, all of which score highly in their respective regions. These countries scored highly on trade integration and the free movement of people.
Commenting on the Index, Stephen Karingi, director for Regional Integration and Trade Division at the Economic Commission for Africa, explains that the index “is both a measurement exercise and a call to action”. He added: “It is for everyone interested in Africa’s prospects: regional and national decision-makers, policymakers, researchers, business leaders, civil society, development partners, the media and the public. It will identify where solutions are needed to truly build an integrated Africa.”
Fatima Haram Acyl, the AUC Commissioner for Trade and Industry also stressed the importance of using Africa’s own data to measure regional integration. “Through the Index, the AUC, AfDB and ECA are bringing the continent’s integration goals within closer reach. Findings show that while progress is being made with 28 top performing countries across the eight Regional Economic Communities, average integration scores stand at below half of the scale. It is time for Africa to build on this and drive regional integration ever further forward.”
AfDB acting chief economist Charles Lufumpa concludes: “The index is intended not only to be a monitoring and evaluation tool, but also as a dashboard for policy makers on regional integration issues. It aims to plug the knowledge gap on regional integration and is a dynamic and evolving tool. Findings show that each Regional Economic Community, and each member country, score higher than average on at least one priority area of integration. This is a strong basis for each region and country to build on and for sharing lessons and insights to encourage greater policy reforms across the continent. By facilitating access to critical information on regional integration, the ARII will improve the quality of policy making in Africa.”