Thursday, July 25, 2024

Achieving Africa’s Financial Integration: The Role of African Multilateral Financial Institutions and the African Development Bank

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By Albert M. Muchanga

The foundations of the Pan African Stock Exchange and African capital market have been established with the operation of the African Exchanges Linkage Project.

The operationalization of the African Credit Rating Agency will contribute to the development of an African capital market.

In addition, a number of African multinational corporations are emerging as they increase and expand their investments across Africa.

We also have the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System. This is complemented with several African commercial banks and fintechs establishing branches in other African countries.

On African financial integration, we need to make them stronger.

For the Alliance of African Multilateral Financial Institutions, this strengthening also involves upholding the preferred creditor status as provided for in their enabling legal instruments.

For the African Development Bank, strengthening it also involves advocacy for replenishment of the African Development Fund as and when we advocate for replenishment of the International Development Association of the World Bank.

The 7th of July was adopted as Africa Integration Day by the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government at their extraordinary session held in Niamey, Niger in 2019 during the rollout of the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

On this day, which is not a holiday, we remember our journey of economic integration.

We started this journey in 1963, with the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). One of the early acts of the OAU was to create the African Development Bank, which is this year celebrating 60 years of existence and is rendering remarkable service to Africans.

When we moved into the 1970s and 1980s, we started establishing Regional Economic Communities.

Today, we have eight officially recognised by the African Union and these are: Arab Maghreb Union (AMU); Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD); East African Community (EAC); Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS); Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD); and Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Our leaders continued the journey by adopting the Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa (1980–2000), which among others, called for the establishment of an African Common Market.

Building on this, our leaders in 1991 opened for signature the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (Abuja Treaty), which came into force in 1994 and recognised Regional Economic Communities as building blocks.

On September 9, 1999, our leaders decided to establish the African Union, which among others, has the objective of accelerating the political and socio-economic integration of our continent.

In addition to the African Union, we have the African Continental Free Trade Area which started trading in 2021.

We also called upon to reflect on the lessons learnt, identify and address the challenges facing our vision of creating the African Economic Community.

From my perspective, there are two key lessons we have learnt in Africa’s journey of regional and continental economic integration.

The first one is that we created several institutions at the regional and continental levels to promote Africa’s economic integration.

The second lesson is that the linear approach to regional economic integration is not the only route. Against the background of this insight, we have before us the final report on readiness assessment towards an African Common Market/Common Market which is going to be considered at an extraordinary session of this Specialized Technical Committee in November this year. Related to this, the 2024 edition of the Assessment of Regional Integration in Africa (ARIA) report, which will be released next month, is also focusing on the issue of creating an African Customs Union. As we read these reports, the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) comes into the picture as a key institution in the establishment of an African Customs Union.

There are also several challenges. I will mention four.

The first one is that our Regional Economic Communities still face the challenges of overlapping memberships. Several of our Member States are still in more than one Regional Economic Community.

Second, we are behind in meeting the targets of the Abuja Treaty. For example, we were supposed to have an African Customs Union in 2023. This slow progress partially arises because of meeting the challenge of surrendering national sovereignty for collective sovereignty, a key requirement of deeper economic integration.

Third is the danger of fragmentation as a result of the suspension of some Member States from ECOWAS following unconstitutional changes of governments.

This fragmentation may extend to the African Continental Free Trade Area since the affected Member States are also suspended from the African Union.

Fourth is Africa’s permanent membership in the G20. To amplify our voice puts pressure on the African Union transforming into a supranational body.

When the ministers and Central Bank governors deliberated on the theme of the Specialised Technical Committee: Enhancing Macroeconomic and Sectoral Policies Coordination in Africa for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development, there was an emphasis on the establishment of the African Monetary Institute, forerunner to the African Central Bank and single African currency, key benchmarks of supra-nationality.

The question that comes is how do we move forward against the background of the challenges? In other words, what are we to do?

I will offer a few proposals.

First, we need to recommit to deepening our continental economic integration. In this connection, it is my expectation that ministers and Central Bank governors will recommend endorsement by the Assembly of the findings and recommendations in the study on readiness assessment towards an African Customs Union/Common Market as well as the Statutes of the African Monetary Institute.

In the same vein, we need to recommit to the African Union functioning in accordance with the two key principles, which are in Article 4 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, focusing on, among other principles, facilitating the participation of the African peoples in the activities of the African Union as well as the establishment of a common defence policy for the African Continent. Observing these principles is key to avoiding fragmentation of our economic integration processes at the regional and continental levels.

We also have to recommit ourselves to the signature and ratification of the Protocol of the African Economic Community Relating to Free Movement of People, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment. Doing so would remove a huge non-tariff barrier in intra-African trade in services.

In the same spirit, we have to recommit ourselves to the ratification of the Protocol on the Pan African Parliament so that it transforms from a deliberative to a legislative body.

Equally important, connectivity is key to the integration of Africa. In this connection, we also have to recommit ourselves to the implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market.

Let me say that the future of Africa lies in deeper continental economic integration.

With deeper continental economic integration, we shall create a single market that is resilient to the shocks of geo-economics and geopolitics as well as give us harmonized policies which will enable us to speak with one voice on emerging global issues in global fora like the United Nations and the G20.

Just as the future of Africa lies in deeper continental economic integration, it also lies in the youth of our continent, our leaders of today and tomorrow. In this connection, I would like to suggest that the theme for next year focuses on the contribution of our youth to deeper continental economic integration.

The author is Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry, and Minerals

4 COMMENTS

  1. Start in a small way at country level or regional level by ensuring that there’s good government. Grand projects encompassing the whole continent such as the African Free Trade Area are too ambitious and will always deliver more and more meetings in expensive hotels and little else.

    • In agreement with you totally one step at a time. European union took years but it was one step at a time they actually implemented things not just talk about it, see how it works then take the next step to much talking.

  2. Funny statements from these politicians and pseudo-politicians “lies in our youth”. Which youth? The ones you exclude from governance and appointments even at corporate level? These age-wars are just the beginning, soon, older people will beg the youth for housing and where to die, watch this space.

  3. Great articulation based on evidence and experience, this conversation should be decentralised and sustained because the people of Africa must be united to find solutions that affect our people. Africa is blessed but our division by forces that make money out of our division must be stopped immediately by opening the borders to allow us to trade and work together. This trend of working as regional economic communities is prolonging decision making. Our leaders should use the 2025 African Union summit to agree and seal the Pan African Parliament as a legislative parliament that would become our single organ like the EU Parliament

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