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Boosting Intra-African Trade: What Role for External Trade Regime?

Dominique Njinkeu's picture

African Head of States and Governments will convene in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia later this month to launch a continent-wide free trade agreement (CFTA). The summit will focus on solutions to the numerous impediments that hinder intra-African trade: inefficient transit regimes and border crossings procedures for goods, services and people; poor implementation of regional integration commitments. The priority should be on this domestic agenda.  However, the differences in -- and uncertainty of -- access to major markets outside Africa could become a distraction and undermine the CFTA.  African Governments and the international community should ensure that this doesn’t happen, that attention is focused on fostering regional integration and boosting intra-regional trade.

Effective regional integration in Africa would not only enhance trade within Africa but it would also attract investment in manufacturing. Experience in many countries has demonstrated that light manufacturing can be a major source of job creation and economic growth. African countries remain highly fragmented, preventing investment by firms in the development of efficient supply chains on the continent. During the next decade China will be off-shoring some of its more labour-intensive manufacturing, creating a unique opportunity for producers in lower-income countries to break in. Market access programs in OECD and emerging market economies’ towards promoting African trade need to support greater exports of manufactured goods. Of particular importance are the inclusion of all products, rules of origin that are consistent with global sourcing of inputs, and eligibility criterion that support  cross-border production networks in Africa.

Africa’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are adopting uniform policies among their members.  But they are expected to trade with the rest of the World under various international trade regimes. This undermines regional integration and trade diversification. In 2005, high-income World Trade Organization (WTO) members agreed to provide least-developed countries (LDCs), most of which are in Africa, with duty-free, quota-free (DFQF) access for at least 97% of their tariff lines (product categories). Other developing countries (non-LDCs) are either granted General System of Preferences (GSP) – which are generally less generous than terms offered to LDCs– or they must negotiate reciprocal free trade agreements with higher-income trading partners to obtain DFQF access. In short, two neighbouring African countries, only one of which is an LDC, will face differential access to OECD markets, and in return offer different market access to their own markets, making it difficult for them to form a supply chain or production network.

There is a need to consolidate existing market access schemes into one that is consistent with a CFTA in order to foster regional integration and trade diversification. Failure to do so will keep the unhealthy divide between LDCs and non-LDCs in RECs that are aspiring to implement effective customs unions. The emerging trade regime also needs to be WTO compatible; to that effect, it is necessary that any preference scheme granting duty-free and quota-free access apply eligibility criteria that do not discriminate on the basis of geography. One such criterion that would support investment in manufacturing in Africa would be to use a cut-off threshold of manufactured exports per head of population.  As noted by the African Union Commission background paper for the Summit, such a threshold could be determined so as to include all members of African customs unions.

Granting DFQF access to all countries that fall below a manufactured exports threshold would obviate the need for least industrialised countries that are not LDCs to negotiate reciprocal FTAs such as the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with the EU.  International partners and African countries should adopt a policy that revolves around access to high-income countries linked to progress in integration with neighbouring countries. This would be superior to the current approach embodied in EPAs, income-based GSP programs or geographically-based, temporary DFQF programs. Such a trade scheme will also help foster the realization of the CFTA.

Making this happen

Five specific actions are required. First, on the European side the ongoing process of revamping the European GSP regime should provide an alternative to the stalled EPA negotiations.  Second, on the USA side the best elements of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) should be made less uncertain. Third, the African governments and the African Union Commission should push for the EU GSP and AGOA to be consolidated into an OECD-wide scheme to be considered in the G20 framework. Fourth, African governments should adopt a mechanism for building credibility and ensuring implementation; this could be done through a time-bound, monitored progress towards intra-regional trade liberalization through sub-regional organizations. Fifth, RECs and dominant economies such as Nigeria and South Africa, the private sector and the civil society should play lead roles.
 

Comments

Submitted by Demba on
Consensus building should first be fostered in most nations... african governments are yet reluctant to civil society inclusion... Lands are still being given for a next to nothing counterpart' s commitment to help restore weak communities... Such an intra-african trade will only succeed when CSOs are strongly involved in the decision making agenda... those institutions are more reflective of public interest than their respective governments umbrella... Demba Dir. Intl. Partnerships http://comengip.org

Submitted by Anonymous on
Demba, Effectively one of the key elements for the Continental FTA to succeed is to have endogenous leadership from a broad range of stakeholders. One such group is the civil society, including the private sector. Have we drawn any lessons from the experience accumulated over the last decade particularly that could inform this agenda? I would be interested in your and other people views/suggestions. Dominique

Dear Dominique, Season's greetings. I have read your very interesting blog which offers an innovative twist to what the rest of the world (or at least the OECD part of it) could (should?) do to boost intra-African trade.Should the focus of analysis not now shift to what African countries can and should do for themselves? Northern-based trade preference schemes can't but feature "hub and spoke" characteristics which tend to constrain rather than enhance intra-African trade. The African Economic Community project was designed as the framework for the continent-wide integration of African economies, starting with trade integration, and building upon the achievements of the RECs. The problem is that not enough is being done to advance this integration agenda. The next African Union Summit should go beyond what African countries can or should receive from outside. It should more productively engage itself with the challenge of boosting intra-African trade from within. The constraints of non-tariff barriers and trade facilitation inadequacies are well known and should continue to be addressed. But existing tariffs and similar taxes which impede intra-African trade can and should be eliminated unilaterally by each African country as a down payment on the trade integration commitments that have been made and re-confirmed at virtually all previous Summits. Doing this has clear benefits but it is not without costs, especially to Africa's many land-locked countries. Research should assist here by estimating the relative costs and benefits to such countries and by designing appropriate schemes for offsetting the net costs. Best regards. Ademola

Submitted by Janvier D Nkurunziza on
Hello Dominique, Thank you for an interesting article. The issues you raise and the solutions you suggest are all pertinent. Let me make three points. First, I agree with Ademola that it is time African countries focused on internal constraints, particularly policy constraints, to regional integration. Why are so many countries reluctant to implement agreements they have signed? Second, the distinction between LDCs and non-LDC developing African countries in terms of the favourable market access they are offered could be misleading. While on paper African LDCs have a preferential treatment, in reality they do not have the capacity to take advantage of these offers. Third, it would be interesting to explore more deeply the issue of regional integration in Africa in the light of the recent developments with respect to Africa's emerging partnerships. If China were to outsource some of its production to Africa, only a small number of countries would be ready to benefit from this. As you rightly put it in your article, regional integration would help countries, particularly landlocked and small ones, to capture some of the benefits arising from China's outsourcing. In my view, thinking more strategically about issues such as this one should be one of the priorities of the African Union Commission. Best regards. Janvier

Submitted by Sheila Page on
Dear Dominique, I agree with Ademola that in current conditions the focus should be on African initiatives. These can be designed to fit African objectives, rather than depending on what is offered by others and being vulnerable to changes imposed from outside. They are also more likely to succeed: as the EU is trying to reduce the number of countries with access to even its ‘normal’ GSP scheme, the proposal to extend DFQF is unrealistic. The proposal is also unreasonable. Why should African countries expect OECD countries to gerrymander the rules for access to fit only them? If African countries want to call on the WTO commitments, they cannot at the same time ask for special treatment. Why should they expect a system designed ‘to include all members of African customs unions’? And what is the developmental justification for offering access ‘linked to progress in integration with neighbouring countries’? It is unacceptable for the developed countries to decide whether and when regional integration is desirable for other countries. I was surprised that you did not mention access to non-OECD countries. This is where markets are growing.

Submitted by Dominique on
Dear Ademola and Sheila: I agree with your assessmentm namely that the priority for African countries should be on African initiatives designed to fot African objectives and the Continental FTA is one such initiative. It has to be the only framework for the coming years to effectively boost intra-African trade and this will also foster a smoother integration in the international trading system. To that effect the international trade regime under which they fall should be consistent and supportive of this African agenda. One clear case is the EPA. The energy that has been allocated to these negotiations could be shifted to the CFTA and the implementation of RECs' regional integration program if Europe designed a GSP that put a hold on the EPA negotiations for several years. Rules of origin should support manufacturing throughout Africa and as such it is important to consolidate what is done with Europe and AGOA. Likewise other OECD and emerging market trade regimes with Africa should be consolidated. The AU background paper for the Summit has a concept, also proposed by Paul Collier, which proposes usind the level of manufacturing in such a manner that most of African countries are covered without excluding non-African countries that meet the same criteria. I should point out what I am advocating is time bound preservation of the preferential regimes that African countries currently have. If in addition the rules or origin are simplified this could effectively help support the regional integration agenda. There are at least two other things that are required. One is that African governments and their developpement partners allocate adequate human and financial resources for pursuing the domestic reform agenda of the CFTA. The second is proper incentive for implementation. I would welcome proposals on this. For example Nigeria is so key to ECOWAS regional integration agenda and to the CFTA itself. What should/could we do to properly mobilize Nigeria (government, academics, CSOs)? Same for REC's and other major players in each of the sub-regions. Dominique

Submitted by Sékou Falil Doumbouya on
Merci Dominique. J’ai bien lu ton article et apprécie bien tes 5 propositions sur ce que le régime commercial international peut faire en faveur du commerce intra-africain. D’autres considèrent que ce régime est trop « exogène » pour les pays d’Afrique et qu’il faut mettre plutôt l’accent sur les initiatives africaines pour améliorer le commerce intra-africain. Je pense que dans les conditions actuelles, il ne faudrait pas faire un choix entre le régime commercial international et les initiatives africaines mais plutôt se demander : comment utiliser de manière cohérente les initiatives internationales (SGP, APE, AGOA, …) et les initiatives africaines (intégrations régionales, accord de libre-échange intra-africain, réformes unilatérales) à des fins de développement économique dans les pays africains. La conception de l’architecture de ces initiatives est alors importante et l’UA peut jouer un rôle dans la cohérence au moyen d’une participation active dans les sphères de négociations ou de coopérations internationales. Pour éviter par exemple que l’architecture des SGP ou des APE défavorise le commerce intra-africain, il peut être utile de s’assurer que les règles d’origine choisies soient libérales (non restrictives) à l’égard des non PMA (pour SGP) ou d’autres régions d’Afrique (pour APE). Sékou

Submitted by Dominique on
Bonjour Sekou, Mon point principal est que la priorite des priorites devrait etre l'ouverture de l'Afrique a l'Afrique en commencant par mettre en oeuvre les programmes d'integration regionale que les differentes CER on adoptees sans aucune presion de l'exterieur. Pour que les Africains puissent realiser ces programmes il serait necessaire que le regime commercial auquel ils sont soumis a l'international ne soient pas inconsistent avec cet agenda d'integration regionale. Nous connaissons tous le sort des APEs et c'est pour cela que ce soit le point sur lequel on commence. Par exemple, esperant que les Africais decident de liberaliser effectivement par rapport a leur voisins, on pourrait suspendre la discussion sur les APE pour un certain nombre d'annees. On a aussi besoin de discuter en parallele le renouvellement d'AGOA et effectivement un des domaines importants serait les regles d'origine que le SPG Europeens et AGOA soient aussi favorables voire identiques pour permettre l'industrialisation. Si dans ce prolongement que le meme processus pourrait etendu sur le regime commercial avec les autres partenaires aussi bien pays de l'OCDE que les pays emergents. Dominique

Submitted by David Luke on
UNDP Report on regional integration in Africa Just over six months ago, in May 2011, UNDP published a study of Regional Integration and Human Development, A Pathway for Africa. See link to report here: http://www.undp.org/poverty/focus_trade_ip_migration.shtml The report explores regional economic integration and its potential impacts on human development. It assesses how contextual factors common to many African countries might condition the impacts of regional integration on human development, and draws on experiences in other continents. It supplements this qualitative analysis with simulations of regional integration processes for different regions in Africa, and economic integration of the whole of Africa. In doing so, it builds on a substantial body of work on regional integration in Africa undertaken by many institutions, notably the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The report argues that regional economic integration is much broader than efforts simply to liberalize trade. It can also include investments in regional infrastructure, harmonization of regulations and standards, common approaches to macroeconomic policy, management of shared natural resources, and greater labour mobility. Noting that human development is about creating the conditions that allow men, women and children to live lives they value by expanding their freedoms and building their capabilities, the report discusses four main channels linking integration and human development: income, access to services, empowerment and sustainability. The impacts of regional integration on human development are highly dependent on the age and gender of people affected by economic integration. They vary from country to country and from community to community, depending on many contextual factors. These factors include both ‘hard’ contextual factors that are difficult or slow to change, such as geography and climatic conditions, and ‘soft’ contextual factors involving policies that if properly designed and implemented, can shape institutions and capacities in the direction of inclusive growth and human development. Africa is endowed with rich resources. African economies are growing quickly, subdued recently only by the impacts of multiple crises. Africa has minerals, oil, and a resilient labour force that in difficult circumstances delivers innovation and growth. Yet Africa also faces multiple challenges. It is highly fragmented, with a large number of landlocked countries and generally poor transport and communication infrastructure— particularly in central Africa. Africa is home to over two thirds of the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs), 12 of which have no access to the sea. Economic policies and regulations have in some cases tended to enhance disadvantages rather than compensate for them. In spite of valuable progress on health, Southern Africa in particular continues to be hard hit by the HIV pandemic and affected by the prevalence of tropical diseases that hamper human capital accumulation and human development in general. The region has one of the largest proportions of unskilled and semi-skilled workers, and capacities tend to be low in both the public and private sector. In addition, youth unemployment is a huge challenge. But these very same challenges attest to the potential of regional economic integration for the continent. Although Africa has made commendable efforts toward regional integration in recent years—including the adoption of the Accra Declaration to accelerate the economic and political integration of the African continent and the establishment of regional economic communities such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (CO MESA) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECO WAS)—progress has been slow and difficult. Further regional economic integration could compensate for the disadvantage of being landlocked and the fragmentation that limits market size and denies economies of scale to many countries. Expanded integration could also create opportunities for resilience by pooling capacities to respond to vulnerabilities. Although tariff reductions and the creation of customs unions across the region are steps in the right direction, deeper levels of integration involving investments in infrastructure, technological upgrading and policy harmonization are likely to lead to the largest human development benefits. This can further enhance competitiveness, productivity and employment, especially for young people in a region severely challenged in these areas. Broader integration and cooperation in complementary sectors would not only support the economic potential of the region, but reinforce broad human development. If greater labour mobility is managed in a way that protects migrants and respects human rights—particularly of women and young workers—it would contribute not only to incomes but also to empowerment. If regional integration provides an impetus to better manage cross-border natural resources, this would support the notion of sustainability inherent in the human development paradigm. Simulations undertaken for the report provide strong evidence of this potential. The simulations suggest that all African regions are better off with regional integration. Continental integration—as opposed to a subregional approach within Africa or integration in global markets—leads to significant increases in welfare across Africa, although the picture for Central Africa is less clear. However, the benefits are significantly enhanced if transport costs are reduced, turning potential losses from regional integration in Central Africa into gains. In contrast, global integration in the absence of regional integration may reduce welfare in African regions under certain circumstances. The analysis indicates that the average tariff revenue lost as a result of intra-Africa economic integration is relatively small, although some countries are more dependent on trade taxes than others. Further, in the longer term, the revenue lost can be partly compensated for through the dynamic effects of integration which leads to economic growth and welfare gains. These results suggest that concerns related to trade tax losses should not be a major obstacle to African integration and that international support helping Africa to bridge the revenue gap would make an important contribution to the integration process and to human development. However, as expected, the simulation results indicate that important distributional issues arise with economic integration. The returns to labour are not equally distributed among skilled and unskilled workers, or across sectors. These issues can be overcome with appropriate policy actions. Existing regional integration initiatives are designed to address distributional issues across countries. One of the objectives of the Communidad Andina de Naciones (CAN) is to promote balanced development under equitable conditions through integration and social cooperation. Members started to discuss regional cooperation on health issues in the 1970s, and literacy programmes targeted at the poorest countries. The Mercado Común del Sur (MERCO SUR) has regional funds available for compensation for poorer members and bilingual border area schools to improve skills. An interesting aspect of integration within Africa is the role it could play in industrial development. While Africa’s integration with the rest of the world could unleash agricultural growth, Africa’s integration with itself could potentially support industrialization. The reduction of tariffs on African agriculture exports in global markets would yield benefits for Africa based on its current set of endowments, particularly for rural areas. Higher rural incomes would allow individuals to invest in education and health services, thus increasing human development. In contrast, as intra-Africa tariffs are higher, integration within Africa would support manufacturing and natural resources. This would benefit the growing number of agricultural and non-agricultural workers, including young people who have migrated to the cities, and potentially support and enrich urbanization and a sustained diversification from agriculture. It is against this background that the bold move toward a continental free trade area (CFTA) is to be welcomed. UNECA has extensively analysed African regional integration, its economic potential, relative achievements and remaining challenges. The slow progress is attributed to a number of factors and challenges still facing African countries, including capacity and financial resource constraints; macroeconomic instability and economic fragmentation; numerous overlapping subgroupings; poor and inadequate infrastructure; the prevalence of disease, including HIV/AIDS; and conflicts and war. The UNDP qualitative exercise suggests that integration benefits are likely to accrue unevenly, underscoring the difficulties to make progress on the ground. Africa’s integration agenda can be significantly strengthened if human development considerations are incorporated at the start. The following recommendations for African policy makers and regional actors outline a pathway toward African integration that seeks to maximize human development. Global initiatives such as Aid for Trade and the Enhanced Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Assistance for Least Developed Countries can play an important role in support of African regional integration and human development. First, the benefits of integration for growth and human development will be magnified if accompanied by investments in infrastructure, both national and cross border. These investments allow people and inputs to move to more productive opportunities, and allow finished goods and services to reach broader markets. The need for infrastructure investment is particularly acute in Africa given the large distances that might be involved between areas of production and markets. Investments are needed not only in transport, but also power, water and communications. These are key considerations for enhancing competitiveness in the region. Second, differentiated regulatory schemes and trade standards represent a drag on regional economic activity. Much can be gained by harmonizing frameworks and making all economic agents aware of their parameters. This is true for labour markets (and cross-border mobility) as well as markets for goods and services. Third, regional economic integration allows for a new exploration of regional industrial policy. Because of market scale, larger labour pools, and diversified resource and production bases, regional policies that work together with existing comparative advantages—but also look to how these may transform in the future— stand a greater chance of success. This regional industrial policy could encourage skills upgrading for value added in agriculture and other manufacturing opportunities. The experience of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and building an integrated economic space by unbundling production across countries provides a valuable reference for Africa. Fourth, the process of economic integration will lead to adjustment costs and distributional impacts across countries. African countries need to build strong regional institutions and policies that go beyond the development of regional standards and monitoring. These institutions must have the instruments and resources necessary to protect the stability of the regional space from internal and external shocks. They must be able to look upward at global challenges and downward to national realities. Fifth, economic integration will entail distributional impacts within countries, and not all impacts will be positive. Human development gains can be maximized and sustained with appropriate social policies. Social protection systems can play a key role in helping populations cope not only with shocks but also the risks that more open and competitive markets bring. While applicable to populations as a whole, social protection mechanisms are particularly important for more vulnerable groups, including young people and women. Sixth, health and education policies play an important role in the context of economic integration by empowering citizens and bolstering productivity. Many countries in Southern Africa have particularly high rates of communicable diseases, which reduce productivity and growth, and ultimately well-being. Enrolment in secondary and tertiary (including vocational) education in Africa is particularly low. Regional integration could allow African countries to pool resources to build the human resources base and technological capacities that would allow Africa to sustain growth and remain globally competitive. Seventh, enhanced regional integration provides a platform for strengthening cooperation on common environmental challenges and preserving the natural resource base that Africa’s development and livelihoods depend on. African regional integration will have a positive impact on the continent’s growth and thus lead to increases in greenhouse gases (GHGs), which will nevertheless remain at low levels. These results stress the importance of African countries joining efforts, capacities and resources, including those generated by growth resulting from regional integration, into ensuring that growth and development are sustainable. The support of development partners will be important. Eighth, the international context will also play a role in the path toward African integration. A number of initiatives are underway involving African countries—for instance, Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations with Europe and the broader World Trade Organization (WTO ) Doha Round. The results of these negotiations have important implications for the future of Africa’s trade and investment and the realization of the potential of regional integration. Broad-based multilateral negotiations that reduce protection to agriculture will reinforce the positive effects of African integration on human development. The EPA negotiations between African regional configurations and the European Union could reinforce efforts toward regional integration in Africa or lead to tensions that compromise the continental project. International support to Africa to bridge the relatively small revenue gap arising from the reduction of tariffs on intra-Africa trade would contribute to economic integration and human development. Finally, further African integration requires strong political will and committed leadership. African leaders need to invest limited capacities and resources in regional integration initiatives with the greatest potential to improve human development, including those that support Africa-wide integration.

Submitted by Njinkeu on
David: The work of the UNDP you cite is consistent with my main analysis. Some assumptions used in the simulations will no longer hold in the near future. The EPA negotiations are stalled and the current GSP proposals in Europe will put countries such as those in UEMOA under different trade regimes and this will-- all things equal--most certainly increase transactions costs. The industrialization results will change also because firms will no longer have the same opportunity of growing within a single regional market. More importantly the level of attention and energy which countries should allocate to deepening their regional integration process will be diminished. It is really imperative that a solution is found to this problem soon.

Submitted by bagumhe on
to realize the dream of boosting intra african trade from the current level of 11% to 25% and 30%. deliberate measures by the African government should be concentrated into linking the continent through infrastructure net work, as well as continental bank in place to finance PTA policy and strategies.

Submitted by Oliver Morrissey on
Dominique (and others); EPAs, imperfections and all, may have more mileage than you give credit for. First, they are effectively maintaining existing preferential access to all SSA countries (in ACP) so in one sense are not discriminating between LDCs and non-LDCs (one of your objectives). Second, by allowing the focus to be on integration within regions, which is challenging enough, the country regional negotiations are manageable. If countries within regions of Africa cannot agree on integrating more, there is little gain in placing the hope on broader African integration. Small steps may actually lead somewhere.

Submitted by Njinkeu on
Oliver; If the EPA negotiations could be concluded then we would be OK. The problem is that they are currently stalled. The small steps, in the event that interim EPA are finalized would mean different trade regimes in sub-regions that are or aspiring at becoming customs unions. We all agree the greatest welfare will come from deeper regional integration and it is crucial to keep the focus on that. Discussion about external trade regimes has provided excuses for not opening Africa to itself. We need to find a way of allocating enough resources to moving this domestic reform agenda.

Submitted by Françoise on
Bonjour Dominique, Je te félicite pour ce débat très intéressant que tu as initié grâce à ton article qui soulève des questions très pertinentes sur les moyens de renforcer l'intégration régionale en Afrique. Je partage l'ensemble des commentaires et des observations qui ont été faites par les différents intervenants. Je crois que toutes les propositions et les solutions pour une vraie dynamique d'un commerce intra-africain sont sur la table étayées par de nombreuses études techniques fournies déjà par le passé notamment par la Banque mondiale, la BAD, la CEA ou le PNUD. Mais pour donner corps à ces propositions, encore faut-il qu'il y ait à la base un vrai volontarisme politique de la part de nos dirigeants africains. Il faudrait au préalable, avant d'en appeler aux donateurs, que les états-membres des CER se décident à transposer dans leur législation nationale les textes communautaires et donc à mettre en oeuvre les instruments juridiques fondamentaux d'intégration économique. Il s'agit là d'une condition sine qua non avant d'envisager un possible accord de libre-échange continental. A cet égard, la région de l'Afrique centrale (CEMAC-CEEAC) accuse un retard considérable comparé aux autres CER dans le processus d'intégration régionale, en particulier pour la libre circulation des personnes et des biens. Il y a donc un sérieux risque de marginalisation par rapport au reste du continent. Cependant, comme le souligne justement le rapport du PNUD, l'intégration régionale ne se limite pas uniquement à la libéralisation du commerce. Elle doit aussi s'accompagner d'un développement des infrastructures régionales. Le déficit d'infrastructures constitue une contrainte majeure à l'intégration régionale. Là encore, l'exemple de l'Afrique centrale est assez emblématique. Elle dispose d'une faible dotation en infrastructures de base par rapport aux autres régions du continent. Cela impacte entre autres sur les importations intra-CEEAC qui sont aux environs de 1% contre 15% dans l’espace UEMOA, et 10% dans la CEDEAO et la SADC, et enfin 5% dans la COMESA. Dans le processus de l'intégration régionale, il faudrait mettre l'accent sur le développement des infrastructures de transport qui puisse-être soutenue par un programme de facilitation du commerce. De plus, le renforcement des capacités institutionnelles et humaines au sein des CER pour mettre en oeuvre les politiques d'intégration est tout aussi indispensable. Une accélération du processus d'intégration régionale dans la perspective d'un accord de libre-échange au niveau continental ne sera possible que s'il existe un volontarisme politique des dirigeants africains qui se traduise par une feuille de route concrète et réaliste. Françoise

Submitted by Njinkeu on
Bonjour Francoise: Meme si nous avons encore des problemes dans quelques pays et/ou sous-region, de plus en plus les dirigeants Africains montrent une volonte politique et se comportent en responsables. Les Chefs d'Etat l'ont montre pendant la discussion de ce probleme lors du Sommet. Ils ont tous supporte l'idee d'une zone de libre echange continental et insiste sur le besoin de reforcer le processus au niveau de chaque sous region. Malgre leur enthousiasme ils ont porte des reserves legitimes sur les delais qui etaient proposes. C'est deja une avancee de ne pas adopter ce que l'on sait ne sera pas applique. Ce qu'il faut c'est des programmes de renforcement des capacites des acteurs du public et du prive pour faire avancer l'agenda. En commencant par les capacites des Secretariat des Communautes Economiques Regionales. Toutes les bonnes volontes (y compris du cote des gouvernements et des donateurs) seraient les bienvenus. Le retard de l'Afrique Centrale dont vous parlez est reel; il faudra que les programmes d'appui evite la marginalisation de certaines regions. Le projet souffrirait enormement si l'Afrique Centrale accusait un retard; c'est le carrefour de toutes les autres. La problematique des infrastructures est une priorite du programme d'action de la Commission; il faudrait surtout que la mise en oeuvre commence immediatement.

Submitted by Abou Fall on
Hello Dominique, I enjoyed following your course with Trapca in Douala a few years back. There seems to be general agreement that regional trade, and even a continent-wide free trade agreement will be beneficial to the continent. African governments have been fast a signing regional agreements, but quite slow at implementing these protocols. West Africa with the ETLS is a point in case where implementation has been slow with 10-12% intra regional trade. It seems Governments are much more focused on what they have to lose than what they can gain by collectively working to remove barriers to trade. For example, a company shipping drinks (ETLS-approved) from Tema to Lagos incurs an additional 30% cost in transport costs, legal and illegal fees, border crossing time and delays. My reading of this is that the product of this company will not be very competitive, hurting company profitability. This extra cost incurred could have been translated into savings that the company can re-invest, produce more, hire more workers. This in turn will translate into more profits, governments will get more revenues from taxes that resulted from from employment. A lower cost product will certainly be welcomed by consumers who can disposal income on other goods or services. I think there is a need to demonstrate clearly the value and the gains of continent-wide trade. In other words, if barriers are removed, investments can increase by X%, government revenue can increase by X%. I think governments needs to envision these gains so that they can operate this paradigm shift whereby we can work collectively for a win-win situation for all stakeholders: private sector, consumers, the government.

Submitted by Njinkeu on
Abou, I completely agree with you. There is a need for building the case for regional integration and the Continental Free Trade Agreement. There as been lots of research papers done in the last decade or so by Africans and non-Africans, but unfortunately the resutls of the evidence thus generated has never been properly packaged and used to engage constructive discussion with all stakeholders (government, regional economic communities, academia, private sector, NGOs....). It does not need to be confrontational. This is badly needed. The key is how we can get this started. The push has to come from Africans and no effort is too small.Everybody who cares about this agenda can do soemthing about it. One thing useful that came out of the AU Summit in January was the recognition by the Head of States and government that this issue is sufficiently important to be an agenda item of future Summits for many years. The next Summit is about 3 months away it is about time we start mobilizing. Would happy to hear more ideas from you and others. Dominique

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