In partnership with the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the World Bank, the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa, the European Commission and UK Trade and Investment, we organised a conference on African Regional Integration on 4 March 2010 in London. Around 200 representatives of African regional economic communities (RECs), African and development partner Governments, multilateral organisations, business and commercial bodies and civil society attended.
Regional integration is an important political and economic priority for Africa increasingly supported by its development partners. For example, last year the UK supported the North-South Corridor Conference in Lusaka where several African leaders announced plans to improve cross-border trade, reduce transport delays and costs, and promote investment. At that event donors agreed to provide over $2.5 billion of funding to upgrade road, rail, port and energy infrastructure.
The Joining up Africa event aimed to help maintain momentum and support for regional integration, and looked at how African institutions, donors, business and other investors can work better together.
I opened the conference and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs also addressed conference guests. Some 30 eminent speakers from a range of backgrounds spoke during discussions on how we can collectively overcome the political, economic and bureaucratic obstacles to greater regional integration. The major organisations represented at the conference agreed to sign an “Outcomes Statement”, which can be found at: http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Documents/publications/ Joining%20Africa%20-%20Final%20Outcomes%20 Statement.pdf. Other development partners are being invited to sign this statement as well.
The statement highlights how essential greater regional integration is for Africa’s growth and development. It recognises the urgent need to strengthen and increase support for regional integration as well as the need for more co-operation by all the relevant African stakeholders. The statement calls for action to:
speed up progress with transport, trade, energy and other infrastructure programmes at a regional level and to resolve the obstacles and non-tariff barriers to trade;
involve the private sector more effectively in support of regional integration;
make support for regional integration more effective by applying the key principles of the Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action regionally for the first time; and
give more support to the COMESA, EAC and SADC tripartite process and to encourage similar arrangements by the African Union and other RECs as steps to establishing an African Economic Community.