The integration of the African continent is well above average with regional economic communities demonstrating progressive efforts toward integration, a newly published African Union (AU) report disclosed on Friday.
The latest African Integration Report said the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) performed best in trade integration, with scores above 75 percent.
The three regional economic communities have been able to implement essential steps for achieving trade integration such as the free trade zones and a common external tariff.
At the infrastructural level, the regional economic communities have almost similar developments, which the report said corroborates the general problem of infrastructure in Africa that cannot effectively support the integration process.
This year’s edition of the African Integration Report, which primarily looked at “Putting Free Movement of Persons at the Center of Continental Integration,” showed that the average progress of the regional economic communities in the implementation of free movement of persons is moderate at 0.68 on a rating scale between 0 and 1.
The ECOWAS and EAC stand out from other regional communities in the free movement of persons’ evaluations with respective ratings of 100 percent and 96 percent, respectively. All the other regional economic communities score below 65 percent, according to the report.
The report attributed the disparities to the difficulties experienced in either implementing the regional free movement protocols or the abolition of visas in their member states.
In terms of monetary integration, the report found that all regional economic communities are still struggling.
It, however, said SADC and EAC are making the best progress toward monetary integration with the establishment of preparatory institutions for monetary integration, such as a monetary institute and a committee for the harmonization of convergence criteria.
The report comes at a time when the COVID-19 continues to ravage economies, with the economic impact of the pandemic on the African continent leading to the first recession in 25 years and economic activity falling by more than 3 percent in 2020, according to a recent report by the World Bank.
The AU, in a statement issued Friday on the outcomes of the report, stressed that regional coordination is an effective approach to manage the response and promote post-pandemic recovery as a key catalyst for long-term prosperity.
AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat commended the progress made in moving forward the continental integration, highlighting the possibilities to foster regional integration for the continent’s socioeconomic transformation.
“One of the important messages emerging from the report is that while the pace of regional integration has been generally slow in some regions, significant progress has been made in various thematic areas such as the free movement of persons, customs unions, tariff and non-tariff barriers, transport corridors and regional infrastructure,” an AU statement quoted Mahamat as saying.