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African leaders address low level of implementation of regional integration

afrol News, 14 October - More than 100 delegates are meeting in Addis Ababa since yesterday to formulate policy strategies that can fast track regional integration in the continent.

Delegates representing national ministries in charge of regional integration, Pan African institutions, Regional economic communities (RECs) and developments partners are attending the three-day session which opened yesterday in the Ehiopian capital.

The Committee on Trade, Regional Cooperation and Integration (CTRI) - a subsidiary body of the Economic Commission for Africa - opened its 6th session today in Addis with calls to fast track the effective implementation of regional integration instruments at national level.

In his opening address, the Ethiopian minister of International Economic Cooperation, Ahmed Shide, stressed that regional integration is not an end by itself. “It is rather a tool that contributes towards achieving sustainable economic growth and development and reducing the level of poverty,” he stated.

The Ethiopian minister urged countries to focus on strengthening their own capacity, improve macroeconomic policy coordination and establish a dispute settlement mechanism to resolve rules of origin conflicts.

Challenges impeding the African regional integration agenda are numerous. Inadequate infrastructure networks continue to restrict Africa’s capacity to trade. In addition to the issue of overlapping mandates, regional economic communities are confronted with a lack of adequate capacity and resources to move the integration agenda forward.

“We still have a long way to go in attaining our associated goals of achieving free movement of goods, services, capital and people across our regions” warned the Deputy Executive Secretary of ECA, Lalla Ben Barka in her speech delivered on behalf of the Executive Secretary.

Ms Ben Barka noted that “in a number of constituencies, national mechanisms for coordination, implementation and systematic follow-up of agreed integration objectives are weak, ineffective or lack resources to function effectively”. She called for "a strong political will and commitment to implement commonly agreed policies and programmes at national level".

Issues on the agenda of the sixth session of the CTRI include: the state of play of regional integration, the minimum integration agenda of the African Union and intra-African trade. Participants will also review developments in the transport sector and on financing of the infrastructure in Africa. The status of the Aid for Trade Initiative will be assessed. Updates will also be provided on the on-going negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with the European Union.

In a statement delivered during the opening session, the African Union Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Dr Maxwell Mkwezalamba underscored the need for “African Common positions in EPA negotiations, to enable negotiating groups to negotiate from a point of strength and promote harmonisation that will assist the process of continental economic integration”.

The Committee on Trade Regional Integration and Cooperation was established in 1997 as one of the subsidiary bodies of the ECA’s Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. Its mandate is to facilitate the coordination of regional integration related activities carried out by ECA and other actors and advise on priorities to be reflected in the work programme of the Commission.

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