Regional integration will only be successful when it is embraced by the people of Africa and is not only a top-down, politically driven initiative.
This was the view of experts at a two day workshop on the challenges to African Economic Integration, hosted by the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice (GSDPP) at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The event, one of several planned on regional integration matters, was facilitated by the Building Bridges programme that aims to connect political stakeholders and research experts to address complex problems affecting the continent.
In delivering the keynote address, Professor Thandika Mkandawire, Chair in African Development at the London School of Economics and a visiting professor at UCT, stressed the need for a deeper understanding of the complex political and economic factors underlying regional integration.
His address looked at initial conditions, ideational factors, the role of powerful individuals, institutions, industrialisation as a measure of development and the international context. The two day workshop covered six key themes each informed by original contributions. Several recommendations emerged and will inform a high-level policymakers’ roundtable organized by the Building Bridges programme in May 2015 and regional meetings later in the year that will involve stakeholders from the private sector, parliamentarians, youth, media and civil society.
The recommendations to promote African Economic Integration include the following:
• Deepen a common vision and identity, including a compelling narrative around the agenda for economic integration
• Strengthen and deploy monitoring tools, including an agreed upon metrics framework
• Expand knowledge and research capacities to build an African community of thinkers, policy practitioners and experts
• Build trust through convening regular dialogues with multiple stakeholders
• Align domestic and regional agendas to support regional integration treaties and frameworks
• Invest in infrastructure for integration to stimulate trade, productivity and the movement of people
• Anchor accountability by supporting and strengthening oversight mechanisms and processes