Introducing the Integrating Africa Blog
The economies of African countries are currently going through an intense growth phase. The African middle class is also growing. Nearly 34 per cent of Africans belong in the middleclass, clearly indicating the direction of future economic growth.
This new economic growth, however, has not been equally distributed across the continent and within individual countries. The poorest African countries are still those that are landlocked and need regular and reliable access to functional ports. Even when there is access to a port, international freight costs pale in comparison to transit costs from ports to landlocked countries. And sometimes it is simply easier to ship goods out of Africa than to export goods to other African countries.
The solution to this and a host of other issues is clear: African countries need to trade more with each other, extending value chains across countries, with each exploiting areas of comparative advantage, and building physical infrastructure that will support intra-Africa trade.
In other words, African countries and regions need to become better integrated.
There are indications that the trend is positive in this regard. There are currently eight regional economic groupings; and in January 2012, African heads of states committed to establishing a Continental Free Trade area by 2017. At this moment, the governments of countries in the three regional economic communities in East and Southern Africa are working towards creating a free trade area. The free trade area – the Tripartite FTA – will cover 26 countries. Together, those countries make up 58.6 per cent of Africa’s GDP.
This new blog, hosted by the Regional Integration Department of the African Development Bank, will chronicle the issues arising from African countries’ efforts as they work to pool resources and integrate their economies for the development of their regional and individual economies. It will feature stories and articles about these efforts in different sectors and areas – from finance to road transport, from power pools to water resource management, from fiscal convergence to labour mobility, and from issues specific to middle-income countries to those peculiar to fragile states.
The partnership between countries, of course, is only as strong as each country’s institutions. This blog, in recognition of this, will also pay particular attention to regional economies’ individual and collective efforts to address soft infrastructure issues. Issues like customs systems harmonization, trade facilitation, the strengthening of regional regulatory frameworks, and the enhancement of institutions and capacities at the regional level are at least as important as hard infrastructure, and will get sufficient coverage on this blog.
We urge you to consider this a collective effort in understanding what regional integration means in Africa – in theory and in practice – and as an effort in documenting the changes the continent is going through. Your thoughts are valuable to us, and we look forward to your ideas and opinions. You are welcome to leave comments on our posts.
We look forward to what we envisage will be a lively discussion; we hope you do too.