Africa needs inclusive economic growth, integration


Level of poverty is still high in African countries despite the fact that their economies have been growing in an impressive rate during the last decade, it was stated at the Ninth Session of the Committee on Regional Cooperation and Integration (CRCI) that was held at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) from December 7 to 9.
During the discussion it was stated that the 5 to 6 percent economic growth that African countries have been proud of has been achieved mostly without economic transformation and without reducing poverty levels.
“The majority of our economies are monolithic and remain predominantly natural resource and primary commodity driven, where little value addition takes place. Agricultural productivity is low,” said Stephen Karingi, the Director of Regional Integration and Trade Division at the UNECA.
The need for African countries to develop trade within Africa has been mentioned as a very significant factor to developing economies further more and bringing about structural change that would help reduce poverty and make gains in the human development index. Currently, it remains that trading between African countries is very low.
‘Enhancing productive integration for Africa’s structural transformation’ was the theme of session that was held this week and discussion points focused on regional integration and trade. “Productive integration means developing and linking regional production and value chains in Africa,” Karingi further explained. According to him, when these regional linkages are developed, they will boost intra-continental trade affecting several industries such as agriculture, infrastructure, telecommunication, energy and investment.
Although agriculture remains to be the most significant sector in many African countries and has immense potential, productivity in that sector remains to be extremely low. “Production and productivity is far below their potential given the richness of the land and resources,” Karingi said.
It was also stated that African countries need to learn from the experiences of Asian countries which have turned their farmers into manufacturing workers, diversified their economies and exported a range of increasingly sophisticated goods.
It was highlighted that the integration of the continent would further increase domestic and foreign direct investment. “Foreign and domestic investments are needed in Africa is to achieve product integration. Investors perception of the continent is improving and currently Africa is the second most attractive investment destination,” said Karingi.
It was underlined that the development of regional supply chains in production, which is one of the most crucial factors in raising foreign and domestic investment, will only be possible it the integration agenda is pushed forward and current remaining barriers to intra-regional trade are removed.
To push forward the integration plan, investment in infrastructure connectivity such as transport and logistics is key, the ECA underlined. 
Established by the ECA Conference of Ministers, the Committee on Regional Cooperation and Integration (CRCI) meets on a biannual basis to review the work undertaken on regional integration and trade such as food security, agriculture, industrialization, infrastructure and investment in Africa.