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"More than infrastructure, it is political will that boosts regional integration in Africa." – Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
The 2014 edition of the African Development Bank's African Development Report, on the theme of "Regional integration at the service of inclusive growth", was officially launched Tuesday, December 16 at the Bank's headquarters in Abidjan.
In her opening address, AfDB Secretary General and Vice-President Cecilia Akintomide emphasized how "Africa's regional integration is a major pillar in the Ten-Year Strategy of the Bank, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014 as Africa's premier development finance institution."
Presenting the report, AfDB’s Acting Chief Economist and Vice-President Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa highlighted the themes developed in it: regional integration and inclusive growth, regional institutions, regional infrastructure, regional migration, regional financial integration and value chains.
Indeed, this report puts regional integration under the spotlight as being necessary for Africa's development, recalling that this is an aspiration dating back to the independence period in the 1960s. Critically examining the developments that have marked these last 50 years in terms of economic and political integration, the publication underscores how much it needs to be stepped up. The world may well be radically changing, but African integration remains as topical as ever, concludes the Report, which also highlighted how much integration could stimulate sustained, inclusive growth.
The development of distribution networks and regional trade within global and African value chains into which the continent fits, institutional challenges, infrastructure – both tangible and "intangible" – indispensable to interconnect markets and boost competitiveness, strengthened financial systems, were among the challenges to the continent’s integration that were examined in the report.
The launch of the publication was also the occasion for a Davos-style discussion with three AfDB Executive Directors, Abdallah Msa, (representing Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, the Comoros, Gabon, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Chad), Dominic O’Neill (Italy, Netherlands and the United Kingdom) and Shehu Yahaya (Nigeria and São Tomé and Principe), and by Marlène Kanga, AfDB Central Africa Regional Director, and Sylvain Maliko, Acting Director of the AfDB’s NEPAD Regional Integration and Trade Department.
All five discussed the increase in migratory flows, while obstacles to mobility never cease to appear (particularly in Central Africa), and the looming gap between regional integration policies depending on whether they are carried out at national or regional levels.
The panellists did, however, note some progress, particularly with regard to infrastructure development and the free movement of persons, especially in the east and west of the continent.
To close the launching ceremony, AfDB President Donald Kaberuka focused on the respective national policies of African states: "More than infrastructure, it is political will that boosts regional integration in Africa," he said, before recalling that over the last 10 years the Bank had been ceaselessly financing road infrastructure throughout the continent, with the aim of interconnecting countries. He also lamented the fact that the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) seemed to be working disparately, struggling from a lack of coordination and resources to implement initiatives to further integration, because far too often national interests take precedence over regional ones.
"I recommend that all those interested in the challenges of regional economic integration in Africa and the opportunities arising from this integration read this report," said Kaberuka. "The Bank will continue to play a leading role in supporting the economic integration of Africa, while helping regional economic communities to create dynamic and attractive regional markets, so that every country in the continent, including the most landlocked and fragile, can benefit from interactions with global markets and from intra-African trade."