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AEC Urges African Countries to embrace economic integration as game changer for inclusive sustainable growth


“Economic integration is a game-changing reality and African countries must fully embrace it to achieve sustainable and inclusive development that reduce poverty and inequality in all its dimensions.” This is the main conclusion of the 2018 African Economic Conference (AEC), which closed Thursday in Kigali, Rwanda.

“Regional and Continental Integration for Africa’s Development” is the theme of this year’s conference, jointly organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Development Bank.

The 2018 AEC brought together close to 400 participants, including African researchers, government officials, policy-makers, youth, civil society and private sector leaders. This is the first such gathering since the adoption of the African Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA) in March 2018, which plans for a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.

During panel discussions and presentations, AEC participants underscored the need to address impediments to greater regional and continental integration such as weak institutions, productive capacity and infrastructure connectivity; a mismatch between local consumption and production modes; profusion of multilateral agreements to the detriment of homegrown agreements; inadequate engagement of the African private sector; illicit capital flight and unnecessary policy regulations.

It was also noted that a greater level of integration could help African countries make their voices heard on the global stage and that the AfCFTA framework could go a long way towards correcting the imbalance of powers during negotiations between regional trading blocs.

Addressing the conference’s last plenary session, Ayodele Odusola, Chief Economist, UNDP Africa, said: “Integration should be a means not an end. We need to make sure that it is people-driven and inclusive.”

Moono Mupotola, Director of Regional Integration Department at the African Development Bank noted that: “Since there is political will, policy makers and implementers of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) should try to come up with a perfect situation to start implementing what our political leaders have agreed.”

Adam Elhiraika, Director of UNECA’s Macroeconomics and Governance Division called on African countries to meet their commitments on signing and ratifying AfCFTA.  

We all know the benefits of facilitating free movement of goods, services and people when we open our borders and integrate. Africa’s GDP would increase as high as 6% every year,” he said. “We need to make sure that our leaders’ commitment and vision to form African Continental Free Trade is realized and implemented. One single continental market for goods and services means wealth and prosperity for all Africans.

To date, 44 African countries have signed the landmark African Continental Free Trade agreement.  Twelve out of the required 22 countries ratified it. The deadline for ratification is March 2019.

Highlights of the conference included the launch of the 2018 Africa Sustainable Development Report, the African Governance Report 2018, and the presentation of the 2018 Visa Openness Index which measures how open African countries are on visa policy.

Following an annual tradition, on the final day of the conference, awards were presented for two outstanding research papers presented at the conference selected by conference participants based on innovation, academic rigor and policy impact.

The best conference paper award went to Blaise Gnimassoun, of the University of Lorraine, France for his paper titled: “Regional Integration: Do intra-African trade and Migration improve income in Africa?

The runner up research paper titled: “The Economic Diplomacy in Africa: The Impact of Regional Integration versus Bilateral Diplomacy on Bilateral Trade” was authored by Sylvanus Kwaku Afesorgbor, of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and the Centre for Trade Policy Analysis and Development, Accra, Ghana.

The 14th African Economic Conference is scheduled to take place in December 2019.

For more information on the 2018 African Economic Conference, please visit

Official hashtags: #AEC2018, #2018AEC, #AfricaForward

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Media contacts: 
UNDP (Kigali): Lamine Bal, +1 646-242-3253
UNDP (Kigali): Gisele Nyampinga, +250 788 802 595

African Development Bank (Abidjan): Aristide Ahouassou, +225 77 30 67 77
ECA (Addis Ababa): Ernest Chi, +251 92 990 7768
ECA (Addis Ababa): Sandra Nyaira, +251 92 911 7895

About UNDP: UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspectives and local insights to help empower lives and build resilient nations.

About the African Development Bank Group: The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) is Africa’s premier development finance institution. It comprises three distinct entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF). On the ground in 38 African countries with an external office in Japan, the AfDB contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states.

About ECA: Headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa was established in 1958 with the mandate of promoting the economic and social development of its member States, fostering intra-regional integration, and promoting international cooperation for Africa's development.

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