08:30 – 10:30 Third Plenary Session – Towards Implementation: The Political Economy of Regional Integration


Intra-Africa integration lags behind the rest of the world as evidenced by movement of goods and services across borders. Despite being home to 14% of the global population, Africa accounts for only 3% of the global GDP and receives only 3% of foreign direct investment, accounts for only 1.8 % of imports and 3.6 % of exports (lower rates for services: 1.7% and 1.8% of imports and exports, respectively). Intra-African trade is only 12% compared to 60%, 40%, 30% intra-regional trade in Europe, North America and ASEAN, respectively. Taking into Africa’s unrecorded informal cross-border trade would bring this figure up to approximately 20%, still lower than other regions.

There are eight recognized AU RECs – trade blocs and political – implementing the Abuja Treaty with varying degrees of success, e.g. EAC most advanced Community launched its Common Market in 2010, COMESA launched its Customs Union on June 2009. ECOWAS and SADC have made progress in building their FTAs and plan to launch their Customs Union in 2015 and 2013, respectively. ECCAS has launched its FTA in 2004 but is facing enormous challenges in implementing it. UMA, CEN-SAD and IGAD are moving slowly and still in the stage of cooperation amongst their member states.

  • What are some the political impediments to faster regional integration?  
  • What are the mechanisms in place to address these challenges including best practice?
  • What particular issues do regional institutions, member states and civil society need to address?

RECs face significant non-tariff barriers to trade that affect the livelihoods of border communities and also act as a barrier to enhancing food security, agricultural and economic transformation. Responses include tripartite arrangement – 3 RECs have adopted a program on elimination of NTBs including web-based reporting by stakeholders and monitoring elimination. ECOWAS has a National Committees NTBs.    

  • What is impact of non-tariff barriers on livelihoods, food security, agricultural and economic transformation?
  • What are some of the best practices in addressing non-tariff barriers that engage communities and member states effectively?
  • What is needed to enhance the effectiveness of regional institutions and deepen the engagement of member states and civil society?

Significant advances have been made in promoting free movement of people and factors of production in some RECs (ECOWAS EAC and AMU), but not in others (SADC, ECCAS, CEN-SAD, IGAD and COMESA).

  • What are the institutional and political obstacles and how can these be addressed effectively?
  • What is the role of regional institutions, member states and civil society in promoting free movement of people and factors of production?

Integrating Africa’s Workforce

If African countries are to transform structurally and integrate regionally, African workers and talents must be able to explore job opportunities and skills transfer across industries and across borders.

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