Need for a paradigm shift of regional integration in Africa
The regional integration agenda in Africa is under threat, mainly because of complacency, donor dependency and lack of ownership of the integration agenda by African countries themselves.
Our research on the COMESA programme, which exemplifies these problems, has shown that:
- It is difficult to argue that the COMESA integration targets, along with the AEC integration targets were, prima facie, too ambitious.
- The top-down planning approach has its flaws but if – and only if – the implementing states have the political will to implement what has been agreed, sufficient resources are made available, and the rule of law is applied to the implementation process, a top-down approach can be an effective method of achieving integration.
- The timing of the African (or COMESA) integration agenda is de facto, not too ambitious
- Although COMESA countries are either LDCs or lower or middle income developing countries, they could pay more to support African economic integration and could pay their own portion of the COMESA budget in full and on time.
COMESA Member States may want to consider: lowering the level of ambition from a free trade agreement to a trade facilitation ambition; moving to an implementation by law integration process; using a different approach that combined a political (top-down) decision approach with a more pragmatic bottom-up approach to achieving regional integration; and creating a fit-for-purpose administration for regional integration.