8 October 2016

Collaboration, Not Competition, Is Key to a Successful Regional Integration

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Kigali — Africa's progress towards regional and global economic integration was the theme of a policy dialogue organized at Kigali Convention Centre by the Eastern African Office of ECA, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Experts from the ECA, UNECSO, the University of Bremen in Germany and the development community in Rwanda argued that transformative regional integration could be achieved through collaboration between countries rather than through economic competition.

Examples were taken from the Brexit in Europe. Discussing its potential impacts for countries of the East African Community, Mr. Andrew Mold, Acting Director of the Office for Eastern Africa of ECA, explained that its direct impact on the East African Community, through trade and investment links, might be relatively reduced. But over the longer run Brexit could have important implications with respect to major issues of concern to Africa such as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs). While acknowledging the seriousness of the Euro-crisis of 2010-11, Mr. Tobias Knedlik, a member of the research group on African Development Perspectives at the University of Bremen explained how the European Monetary Union had contributed to improving the economic integration of the Euro-area. Subsequent discussions focussed on the lessons from that experience for Eastern Africa.

Debating the way forward for regional integration in the EAC, Rodgers Mukwaya, an economist from ECA, highlighted the benefits that EAC economies could reap from the implementation of Tripartite and Continental Free Trade Agreements. Nazar Hassan, a Senior Science and Technology Specialist at UNESCO, stressed that without a strong and effective Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy, the region would struggle to compete in regional and global markets.

Finally Mr. Mold showed that countries from the EAC still undergo a slow pace of structural transformation and face competitiveness issues. He argued that the two main reasons might be the weakness of the banking system and the low rate of investment. He stressed the need to scale-up the size of national firms to become regional champions. In that regard, further economic regional integration could be a way forward.

Notes to the editor

The Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa (SRO-EA) is based in Kigali, Rwanda and covers Burundi, Comoros, D.R Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

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