Full integration tied to visa-free movement in Africa

Regional heads of State during the 17th Ordinary EAC Summit in Arusha Tanzania. The bloc was ranked the most integration in Africa. PHOTO | SAMUEL MIRING’U

African countries have until 2018 to abolish visa requirements in order to promote free movement of people on the continent.

East and West African countries were single out as having less restrictions on travel for Africans, while the Central and North African nations have not abolished visa requirements two years to the deadline.

This was revealed at the inaugural launch of the Africa Regional Integration Index (ARII) during the Africa Development Week in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. The index focuses on eight major blocs known as Regional Economic Communities.

“For Africa to fully integrate, countries should abolish the visa requirements to allow easy, free movement of people, goods and labour across the continent,” Stephen Karingi, UN Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) director for regional integration and trade division said.

“As countries grow in innovation capacities, they are likely to integrate even more with each other through investment, supply chains, trade, knowledge and mobility.”

The five-member East African Community (EAC) was cited as the most integrated regional bloc. South Sudan was admitted to the bloc as its sixth member in March.

“A lot of progress has been made but we still have problems with energy shortages which pose serious constraints on businesses; lack of integrated infrastructure, and slow implementation of policy,” said acting chief economist of the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), Charles Lufumpa.

The ARII is designed to measure the extent to which each country in Africa is meeting its commitments under the various pan-African integration frameworks, such as the Agenda 2063. The index was compiled by the African Union, AfDB, and Uneca.

According to the index, Rwanda was ranked among the “deeply integrated” countries in the categories that included free movement of persons, financial integration, and macroeconomic policy convergence.

“Rwanda puts a high policy priority in terms of achieving a deeper degree of regional integration, most notably through the East African Community, but also Comesa and, more recently, ECCAS (which it re-joined in May 2015),” says the report.

Other categories of the index are trade integration, productive integration, and infrastructure.

Kenya was ranked top position in three of the four blocs it is a member of — the EAC, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).

“Regional integration is often cited as a key component of economic transformation,” said Fatima Haram Acyl, the AUC commissioner for trade and industry.

Haram added that the index’s aim is to assess how African countries fare on integration and highlight the gaps.

The index focuses on eight major blocs known as Regional Economic Communities (RECs).  They include Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Comesa, EAC and IGAD.

Source: http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke