Trade Policy Development > United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

Promotion of Regional Integration in Africa

The Regional Integration, Infrastructure and Trade Division (RISD) continues to be a major source of intellectual support to the process of Africa's integration, and a “think tank” for analysing, clarifying and providing solutions to a variety of issues and challenges confronting this process. Within the framework of its programs, the Division undertakes and disseminates research studies, as well as provide advisory services and technical assistance in critical areas of Africa's integration agenda.

In this regard, the Division undertakes a number of important activities in key areas including institutional development and capacity building for integration, trade liberalization, macro-and economic policy convergence, and infrastructural development (transport and energy), as well as in mineral and water resources development.

Of far-reaching potential impact is RITD's innovative work in evaluating the status of Africa's integration process embodied in the Report on the Assessment of Regional Integration in Africa (ARIA). This leading publication prepared jointly with the AUC and AfDB on regional integration, has been influencing the policy debate in the continent over the past years. ARIA I published in 2004 defined the background for the successive ARIA publications by providing a comprehensive assessment of the status of regional integration in Africa. ARIA II examined and made recommendation on the rationalization of multiplicity of memberships in regional integration in Africa. ARIA III addressed macro-economic policy convergence, monetary and financial integration in the various RECs. ARIA IV focused on the issue of intra-African trade. ARIA V, launched during the AU Summit in January 2012, provided analytical research and defined a framework to facilitate the move towards the CFTA, which assisted the Heads of State and Government in their deliberations and decisions to establish the CFTA and boost intra-African trade. In the coming years, and given the success of this report among its readership, ARIA is expected to continue profiling itself as a leading yearly publication on regional integration in the continent. The upcoming ARIA VI will focus on the necessary requirements for a harmonized and seamless trading environment, so that the continent is able to maximize it trade potential within African borders and beyond.

The Division has provided support to and cooperated with the African Union Commission (AUC) and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in a number of areas including but not limited to supporting the AUC on the Boosting of Intra-Africa trade and the Establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017. In the context of the theme of the 18th Ordinary Session of the AUC Summit on “Boosting Intra-Africa Trade” held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2012, the ECA and AUC worked jointly to prepare several technical papers. These included the joint ECA/AUC/AfDB flagship publication on Assessing Regional Integration in Africa (ARIA V) on the theme of Boosting Intra-African Trade, a Briefing note for the Chair of the Union, the AUC and ECA principals in preparation for the AU Summit, dealing with critical issues to the design and establishment of the CFTA. Equally, a Q&A on Boosting Intra-African Trade was prepared, which targeted major questions evolving around the CFTA for sensitizing the Heads of State, and for public dissemination and awareness. A Synthesis Paper was also prepared, which summarized the content of the three key documents which were discussed in the Summit, namely: (i) the Issues Paper on Intra-African Trade (ii) the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade, and (iii) the Framework, Roadmap and Architecture for Fast-tracking the Continental Free Trade Area. ECA also undertook a number of important ancillary technical studies aiming at: assessing the economic implications of the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area, followed by a Continental Customs Union, which analyzed in detail the economic benefits from the CFTA, and the huge potential and opportunities to enhance export diversification and intra-industry trade across the African continent. Important technical inputs were thus brought to bear on the January 2012 Summit to shape the debate and decisions of the Heads of State on this important subject, which successfully led to a milestone Declaration and Decision of the Summit on Boosting Intra-African Trade and the Establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area by the year 2017.

To maintain the momentum from the Summit, AUC in close collaboration with ECA, organized a Consultative Meeting of Senior Officials from Member States on Boosting Intra-African Trade, held in Addis Ababa, 3 – 4 April 2012. The meeting was organized within the context of the decision of the AUC Chairperson to nominate a Committee of 7 Heads of State and Government to help clarify any moot issues on the establishment of the CFTA, which some Heads of State had raised during the Summit, particularly with regard to the extent of Africa’s infrastructure preparedness to make the CFTA feasible by the indicative date of 2017. In this context, the ECA was requested to prepare 2 technical questions regarding the feasibility of establishing a CFTA, given the reality of intra-African trade and infrastructure density in the continent. The ECA prepared and subsequently presented these papers in the meeting, informing the discussions of the representatives of the member States and RECs, which adopted the papers and issued recommendations that supported moving ahead with the CFTA. Further, the ECA provided support and inputs in the development of a comprehensive Work Plan for the Department of Trade and Industry of the AUC for 2012, with concrete support to activities relating to the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African trade. An Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on Metrology, Export Diversification and Intra-Industry trade was also organized in Lusaka, Zambia on 3 and 4 May 2012 to provide further clarity and build capacity on the issue of economic diversification as an important fulcrum of the CFTA agenda.

In a recent roundtable meeting of the AUC with its partners to explore ways and means of mobilizing resources for the realization of the CFTA and the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade, it was agreed that the African Trade Policy Center (ATPC) based in ECA would take the lead in implementing the cluster on trade policy in the Action Plan as well as support the implementation of the trade policy dimensions of the other lusters in the Action Plan. Finally, ATPC has also been requested to assist the AUC in developing the implementation strategy of the Action Plan, as called for in aforementioned the AU Summit.

African Trade Policy Centre

The African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC), an initiative of ECA was created by the ECA in June 2003. The Centre which is based at the ECA Headquarters in Addis Ababa was set-up with the financial support of the Canadian Government through the Canada Fund for Africa. The Centre has also received support from UNDP, the Government of Denmark and Sweden and DFID. The main objective of the Centre at the time of its establishment was to strengthen the human and institutional capacities of African Governments; to formulate and implement sound trade policies; and participate more effectively in trade negotiations at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. Phase II of ATPC (2008-2013)’s strategic orientation is to assist RECs and member states to better integrate trade into their development strategies.

For more information: www.uneca.org/atpc