East Africa leads the way in regional integration, says Index

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The Africa Regional Integration Index (ARII) Report – Africa’s first effort to measure progress on regional integration – was launched Saturday, April 2 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during African Development Week, which is taking place from March 31 to April 5. Out of all the Regional Economic Communities, the report cites the East African Community as the most integrated region.

The ARII is a collaborative effort between the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). It seeks to collect data on the impacts of regional integration.

Although regional integration is often quoted as a key component of economic transformation, up until now, no mechanisms existed to systematically measure how different African countries and regions fared. This flagship report assesses the current situation on the continent and highlights gaps and best practices.

The ARII looks at 16 indicators across five broad dimensions, which are: trade integration, productive integration, regional infrastructure, free movement of people, and financial integration. The indicators measure important aspects such as share of intra-regional trade as a percentage of total trade, and proportion of intra-regional flights, amongst others. Countries that scored highly in a number of dimensions include Kenya, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon.

Fatima Haram Acyl, the AUC Commissioner for Trade and Industry, stressed the importance of using Africa’s own data to measure regional integration. “Through the Index, the AUC, AfDB and ECA are bringing the continent’s integration goals within closer reach. Findings show that while progress is being made with 28 top performing countries across the eight Regional Economic Communities, average integration scores stand at below half of the scale. It is time for Africa to build on this and drive regional integration ever further forward.” 

Additionally, Africa has a significant way to go if all countries are to reach the frontier of what the best performers are achieving in the area of regional integration. The greatest divergence in regional performance is in the area of financial integration and macroeconomic policy convergence. Interestingly, countries with the largest economies do not always perform the best, says the report.

Charles Lufumpa, AfDB’s Acting Chief Economist, noted the importance of the Index in guiding policy-makers. “The Index is intended not only to be a monitoring and evaluation tool, but also a dashboard for policy-makers on regional integration issues. By facilitating access to critical information on regional integration, the ARII will improve the quality of policy-making in Africa as it pertains to regional integration.”

Stephen Karingi, the Director for the Regional Integration, Infrastructure and Trade Division at ECA, said the Index “is both a measurement exercise and a call to action”. He added: “It is for everyone interested in Africa’s prospects including regional and national decision-makers, policy-makers, researchers, business leaders, civil society, development partners, media and the public. It will identify where solutions are needed to truly build an integrated Africa.”

Convened by EAC and AUC, the week-long conference discussed some of the most important policy issues relating to Africa’s development.

More information on the Index, including detailed explanations about the methodology, dimensions, indicators as well as detailed country profiles and rankings can be obtained at the following link: www.integrate-africa.org.

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