Interview with Moono Mupotola, African Development Bank’s Director for Regional Integration
“How would this year’s African Economic Conference (AEC) advance latent issues for Africa, including free movement of goods, people, labour, services and currency restrictions? What practical solutions especially in the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)? What are specialists doing differently at this year’s gathering?”
Sharing perspectives ahead of the upcoming AEC on 3-5 December in Kigali, Moono Mupotola, has highlighted solutions to speeding up Africa’s integration. Excerpts…
Question 1: What are your expectations of this year’s African Economic Conference? What are we doing differently?
Answer: The theme for this year’s conference is Regional and Continental Integration for Africa’s Development and resonates well with the African Union Commission’s Agenda 2063 and the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) that was signed in March 2018. Of course the Bank’s own High 5 on Integrate Africa is aligned to the continent’s aspirations and let’s not forget that earlier this year, the Board approved the Regional Integration Strategic Framework (RISF), which provides the areas of interventions for the Bank. I must also emphasize that at the core of the Bank’s existence is regional integration and specifically to implement and make real elements that support Africa’s integration agenda.
What we are doing differently with this conference is that, it is less academic but geared towards bringing together regional integration practitioners to provide us with practical solutions especially in the implementation of the AfCFTA. We are bringing the private sector who will be sharing their experiences as they do business on the continent. With this information we should be able to come up with recommendations that we will see Africa’s share of regional and global trade soar to unprecedented levels.
Question 2: Despite the progress made in integrating the region, political will, legislation and issues of barriers, have hampered initiatives to move forward, raising concerns about achieving the goal of continental integration. To what extent can we say the Bank has concretely done its part of the job?
Answer: The Bank has done extremely well when it comes to building infrastructure especially in the transport and power sectors. You may recall that the Bank led on developing the Program for Infrastructure Development for Africa (PIDA), the blue print that provides the missing links required to connect the continent. Over the past three years the Bank has funded projects worth US$1.3 billion and regional public goods worth US$ 187.6 million However, where we need to scale up more, in the area of soft infrastructure to enable and facilitate integration in areas such as policy and regulatory harmonization, removal of non-tariff barriers, improvement in logistics between countries and other factors that affect Africa’s competitiveness. I must add that it is now Bank policy that all regional projects allocate 10% of the total project budget to soft infrastructure interventions. We are now in the process of developing a trade and transport facilitation toolkit which should substantially assist our task managers in the transport sector to include the soft components in their project designs. The Regional Integration team will then develop similar tools for the power, water and ICT sectors.
Question 3: What would you think could be the new tools to develop, that will help speed up the continental integration process?
Answer: The first instrument to speed up integration in Africa is the ratification of the AfCFTA. There was much excitement when 44 countries signed up to the agreement in Kigali this year, however, twenty-two countries must ratify for the agreement to become effective: so far only seven countries have ratified the agreement. We have earmarked a grant of about $5million to the African Union Commission (AUC) under the Bank’s Regional Public Goods Window, which among other areas will assist the AUC in meeting this goal.
At the Bank level, the tools that we are developing should speed up the implementation of Regional Integration commitments undertaken by Regional Member Countries. We now have Regional Integration Coordinators in each of our five regions working closing with our project managers to ensure that soft integration elements are included in most Bank projects
Question 4: The free movement of goods, people, labour, services and currency restrictions are latent issues. How would this conference advance these issues for Africa?
Answer: We shall launch at this conference the 2018 edition of our flagship Visa Index, an advocacy tool that has helped spur the debate on the movement of Africans to other African countries. The panel discussion that will proceed the launch will very much address issues related to movement of goods, services and people. The conference, as I mentioned earlier will include private sector players, government officials, academics and others which provides an excellent learning opportunity for everyone. Am hoping that we can leave the conference with the resolute to accelerate Africa’s integration. Let me also say we have invited the head of Trade and Integration at the Inter-American Development Bank to provide the integration perspective from Latin America and the Caribbean.