By Maimunat Abdulrahman
The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), African Development Bank (AfDB) and African Union Commission (AUC) on Friday 22nd May 2020 have inaugurated the second Africa Regional Integration Index (ARII 2019). It comes with a call to action, for economies on the continent to deepen their integration.
The AfDB Communications and External Relations Department made this known in a statement issued on Friday. According to the statement, the 2019 Index, which builds on the first edition that was published in 2016, provides up-to-date data on the status and progress of regional integration in Africa. It also helps to assess the level of integration for every Regional Economic Community (REC) and their member countries.
The report, according to the statement, observed that although 20 countries scored above average, no African country could be considered well integrated in its region. It said that even the most integrated country, South Africa, scored 0.625 less than two-thirds of its potential on the scale.
Mr Stephen Karingi, Regional Integration Division Director of ECA, is quoted in the statement as saying: “the report found that much more needs to be done to integrate regional economies to make them more resilient to shocks such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Overall, the Index shows that levels of integration on the continent are relatively low with an average score of 0.327 out of one.
“Whereas the Index edition we are releasing today has data cut off points in 2019, the present COVID-19 pandemic has reopened the question of whether enough is being done in advancing regional integration as a means to help Africa withstand systematic shocks such as the one being experienced today.
“This index is both a measurement exercise and a call to action; to build resilient economies through integration.”
According to him, it will identify the solutions needed to truly build an integrated Africa. Jean-Denis Gabikini, Acting Director of the AUC’s Economic Affairs Department, is quoted as welcoming the collaboration in producing the Index. He noted that the Index covered issues of intellectual property, competition policy, investment and digital trade, which were critical to the successful negotiations of Phase II and III of AfCFTA.
“To achieve an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, representing a dynamic force in the concert of nations, this ARII report will support AU Member States and RECs to address industrialisation and value addition priorities for the development of the continent,” Gabikini said.
The AfDB’s Director for Regional Development and Regional Integration, Moono Mupotola, said the Index was a useful tool for tracking progress on the regional integration front and would help countries identify priorities to improve integration.
“The crippling effects of COVID-19 illustrate the need for enhanced production of African finished goods and services that can readily be traded across the continent,” Mupotola said.