Emerging political landscape in North Africa bodes well for regional integration – Report

A new report published by the African Development Bank (AfDB) indicates that in spite of the constraints of political differences as well as diversity in economic performance, pace of reforms and openness, and disparities in legal and regulatory frameworks working against integration in Northern Africa, there appears to be a glimmer of hope.

The flicker of hope, it points out, stems from recent political developments in that part of Africa.

Commenting on the new report  – “Unlocking North Africa’s potential through regional integration”, released in Tunis Tuesday, August 7, 2012, Jacob Kolster, AfDB Regional Department Director for North Africa stated; “Despite these challenges, in the wake of the Arab Spring, the emerging political landscape in North Africa promises to give new impetus to regional integration efforts.”

He opined that the diversity of resource endowments in the region, coupled with the existing physical infrastructure, represent an important opportunity for further development through regional integration.

For his part, Emanuele Santi, an Economist at AfDB and Coordinator of the report said, “The potential is huge,” adding, “The new political context in North African countries and the crisis in Europe, which compel countries to diversify markets, offer a golden opportunity to refocus on the regional integration agenda as an engine of growth for all countries.”

The report examines the key issues and challenges facing regional integration in the North African countries across a number of thematic areas, including: (i) energy; (ii) climate change and environment; (iii) financial sector; (iv) trade facilitation and transport; (v) human development; and (vi) information and communication technology.

“Unlocking North Africa’s potential through regional integration” indicates that efforts to promote regional integration in North Africa have also been constrained by overlapping preferential trade agreements, while a large number of trade barriers have also emerged as a constraint to regional integration efforts.
“Together, these impediments have increased transaction costs. Similarly, the existence of these barriers reflects weak political commitment to the integration process, as a large number of decisions taken at the regional level have not been translated into action at the country level,” stated a press release announcing the new AfDB report, which was distributed by the African Press Organization.

The report makes proposals for the continued engagement of the African Development Bank in the region, geared towards exploiting the full potential of regional integration in North Africa for the promotion of a new, inclusive and sustainable growth model.

Meanwhile, regional integration is still in its infancy in North Africa and with intra-regional trade accounting for less than 4% of total trade, the region is the least economically integrated neighborhood in the world.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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