For the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to fully attain its twin goals of increased intra-African trade and enhanced global competitiveness of member-states, there is a need for purposeful interactions among existing Regional Economic Communities (RECs)
This is a key recommendation contained in the February Research Report published by the Ghana International Investment Trade and Finance Conference (GITFiC), which had as its focus Africa’s Regional Integration under the AfCFTA.
The report highlighted the similarities and noted key differences among the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS).
It showed – consistent with data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) – that despite appreciable levels of trade growth within each REC, trade among the respective RECs remains low.
“The approach to be adopted in this century cannot be mutually exclusive; member-states must go beyond the traditional preoccupation with state sovereignty toward the adoption of more collective approaches for the attainment of economic growth and development,” the report – authored by GiTFIC’s Lead-Research Fellow, Gerald Ekow Woode – read in part.
This comes as analysts are concerned that rising incidents of political unrest – particularly in West, North and East Africa – could derail measures aimed at fostering more trade between RECs.
Further concerns exist over the implications for AfCFTA, which is projected to generate a combined annual output of US$2.2trillion across the continent and its transition phase alone touted to generate welfare gains of US$16.1billion and boost intra-African trade by 33 percent.
To address some of these and other concerns, GiTFIC also suggests that there be more pronounced participation of the private sector and civil society in the formulation and implementation of relevant policies.
“Increased stakeholder participation is required in policy harmonisation and coordination. The role of the private sector and civil society, in particular, must be expanded; and greater collaboration in the form of public-private partnerships must be explored. This will result in methods that are more effective to achieve the integration goals,” it said.
With a number of sceptics questioning the timing and structure of AfCFTA – and describing it as a “cut-and-paste EU-style regional integration model” that will fail to realise its goals due to infrastructural deficiencies on the continent – the report called for more Africa-based solutions for economic diversification and integration, driven by data from detailed research.
“There is a need for more specialised studies on Africa, notably on how to create more diversification of African economies and closer economic integration. There are several options to extend the region’s economic foundation. The outcomes of this research should guide the policy initiatives that must be implemented in order for the integration process to function properly,” it stated.