“The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
Will the African Integration Revolution be Televised (2), (or a Tale of Africa’s Zeitgeist!)
By E.K.Bensah Jr
After the indefatigable efforts of West African civil society organizations, including the Economic Justice Network, to stall and stop Ghana from signing an interim Economic Partnership Agreement(EPA) with the European Union, you could be forgiven for thinking the guard of African integration watchers might be let down. Truth be told, the stalling serves only as a reminder of Nkrumah’s call for eternal vigilance. That no less than the African Union has stated categorically that the EPAs are not “a priority” for Africa, but regional integration is, can only help vindicate all those who work assiduously every day towards the emancipation of Africa—be it in West Africa, or continentally.
Last week, I touched on three (out of five) major developments that might lend weight to the view that Africa’s about to take off in 2012. The first was the Africa Trade Forum, hosted by the UN Economic Commission in Africa; next was the Seventh Ordinary Session of Conference of African Trade Ministers that just concluded meetings in Accra on 3 December; third was the launching of the Least Developed Countries report in Geneva – at which I expressed disappointment that there was no coverage of it probably because Ghana is not an LDC.
The two remaining developments are the Second Congress of African Economists; and the ECOWAS Ministerial Monitoring Committee—and related activities by civil society—that concluded discussions in Accra on 1st December.
Second Congress of African Economists
If there is a second, then it surely means there was a first – and the First Congress took place in Nairobi, Kenya in July 2009. The theme was: “Towards the Creation of a Single African Currency: Review of the Creation of a Single African Currency: Which optimal Approach to be adopted to accelerate the creation of the unique continental currency?” Doubtless, a heavy topic, so it is little wonder the outcome document is more than 200 pages!
The Second Congress of African Economists took place from 24-26 November in the West African state of Cote d’ivoire. The theme is “Achieving strong and sustainable economic growth in Africa to curb unemployment and promote regional and continental integration dynamics.” Unbeknownst to many African Integration watchers, the main objective of this gathering is to provide a platform for Economists from Africa; the continent and the Diaspora to “come up with concrete solutions to integration and development challenges facing Africa.” Above all, the Congress promotes knowledge sharing; and provides clear recommendations “to assist African countries in reformulating their economic policies with a view to addressing current socio-economic challenges.”
The Abidjan Declaration is the final outcome statement from the Congress. Recommendations were made on the following: foreign direct investment and domestic resource mobilization as a tool for alleviating poverty and generating employment in Africa; Unemployment as a barrier to sustainable economic growth in Africa; Governance, institutional reform and the role of the private sector in boosting economic growth in Africa; Africa and the new development paradigm; Boosting intra-African trade; and Aid effectiveness.
On “foreign direct investment and domestic resource mobilization as a tool for alleviating poverty and generating employment in Africa”, the Congress recommends that Africa should agree on its own definition of poverty as well as an appropriate system of measurement; second, the AU should work with member states and RECs to “develop a comprehensive plan for the promotion of long-term investment and strategies for the creation and retention of labour in Africa.”
On “Unemployment as a barrier to sustainable economic growth in Africa”, the Congress includes “comprehensive strategies should be developed aimed at the transformation of Africa’s natural resource based economies into knowledge-based economies…”; second, there should be more investment in research and development; third, gender dimension should be reflected in employment policies.
As regards “Governance, institutional reform and the role of the private sector in boosting economic growth in Africa”, the recommendation includes “specific strategies on SME development” and how they should be led by African countries; the need to improve the competitiveness of African industries; as well as the need for member states to “implement financial sector reforms aimed at deepening the financial system…”
With respect to “Africa and the new development paradigm”, the Declaration states that “African countries should consider enhancing the use of the Human Development Index to complement GDP as a measure of development”; African countries ought to work towards implementing African-led development initiatives, such as NEPAD. Above all, and most importantly, the AU; RECs; and member states ought to “take all necessary measures to expedite the regional and continental integration process as a stepping-stone towards integration into the global economy through measures such as the implementation of the Minimum Integration Programme(MIP)”, which was the outcome of the Fourth Conference of African Ministers of Integration(COMAI IV) in Yaounde, Cameroon, in 2009. In addition, African countries should set their sights on outreach with the Diaspora and seek “to build alliances” with them to attain development.
On “Boosting intra-African trade”, the AU should be tasked to work with RECs and Pan-African institutions “to promote monetary and financial integration in Africa”; African countries ought to take steps to implement regional and sub-regional agreements on free movements of persons; goods; services; and capital; the AU and member states should support “cross-border infrastructure development programmes”, such as the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa(PIDA). Critical to all these ought to be the support given by the AU and its member states to boost intra-African trade and create a continental free trade area – as prescribed by the just-ended 7th ordinary session of African Trade ministers here in Accra.
If there is anything that has brought into sharp relief this year the need for the AU to seek alternatives sources of financing, then it must be the Libyan crisis. Although this does not feature in the Abidjan declaration, what does is the need for the AU and its member states to continue to seek alternatives to the conventional sources of Overseas Development Assistance(ODA); and the donor funding, which is often late and inadequate in any case.
Little wonder, therefore, that in the final point on “Aid effectiveness”, the Congress recommends how “Africa should explore innovative sources of finance, including domestic resource mobilization n and Diaspora bonds as a means of reducing dependence on aid.” Closely tied to this is the proposal for a monitoring and evaluation mechanism, which finds expression in an “annual reporting on the delivery and utilization of aid within member states as well as regional institutions such as RECs and the AU.”
If, like me, you can feel some sense of Zeitgeist of African Integration, then you’ll look out for next week when I conclude on the fifth development that will contribute to sending Africa off to better places in 2012.
In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" (http://www.critiquing-
regionalism.org). Established in 2004 as an initiative
to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration
initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration
initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on firstname.lastname@example.org / Mobile: +233-268.687.653.