High-level Event on the Role of African Regional and Sub-regional Organizations in Achieving Regional Integration (12 October 2015)

Theme: "The Continental Free Trade Area within the Context of the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan of Agenda 2063"

  • Initiatives, such as the Continental Free Trade Area, are not about trade liberalisation but structural transformation which has the well-being of everyday Africans at heart.

  • H.E. Mr. Vandi Chidi Minah, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the United Nations and Chair of the African Group for the Month of October. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

  • Mr. Maged Abdelaziz, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

  • H.E. Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

  • Mr. BAN Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary-General. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

  • H.E. Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer, NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency and Interim Chief Executive Officer, African Peer Review Mechanism Secretariat. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

  • Mr. Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

  • H.E. Dr. Anthony Mothae Maruping, Commissioner for Economic Affairs, African Union Commission. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

  • H.E. Mr. Sindiso Ndema Ngwenya, Secretary-General of the COMESA and immediate past Chairperson of the SADC-EAC-COMESA Tripartite Free Trade Area Taskforce. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

  • Ms. Moono Mupotola, Director of the African Development Bank’s NEPAD, Trade & Regional Integration Department. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

  • H.E. Dr. Mustapha Mekideche, Chairperson of the African Peer Review Panel of Eminent Persons. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

The centrality of the Continental Free Trade Area for the achievement of Africa’s transformation and development vision re-iterated as Africa Week 2015 kicks-off!

Africa Week 2015 was launched at a high-level event which featured the participation of His Excellency Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the 70th session of the General Assembly (PGA), the Secretary-General of the United Nations, His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, various high-level officials from African regional and subregional organizations as well as representatives of a number of key partners of the continent. The PGA PDF, among other things, welcomed Africa's strong efforts towards regional integration. He noted that initiatives such as the CFTA are not about trade liberalisation but structural transformation for the well-being of everyday Africans.  

For his part, the Secretary-General welcomed the recently established Tripartite Free Trade Area (comprised of 26 African states) as an important step for the CFTA process.  He called for deeper ties and the harnessing of synergies between the United Nations and the African Union. Furthermore, the Secretary- General and the PGA both underlined that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development and Agenda 2063 provide a clear roadmap for aspirations that now need to be translated into action.

Various salient points emerged from the statements made by various speakers and the interactive discussions during the high-level event. These included Africa’s determination to launch the CFTA by the established deadline of 2017, dating back to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (Abuja Treaty) in June1991, which entered into force on 12 May 1994, including the vital enabling measures being taken in this regard by the African Union, its Regional Economic Communities (RECs), and various continental bodies including the Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank PDF and by Member States.

Some of the challenges presenting themselves for the process were discussed. These included the negative impact the Structural Adjustment Programmes implemented in the continent, and weaknesses in reporting economic indicators of the continent. The latter, it was noted, was due in large part to weak statistical capacities which do not fully capture data for the informal economy and to the increasing complexity of some sectors of the continent’s economy, such as the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) sector, thereby underestimating the continent's progress and potential.

The centrality of the CFTA as well as infrastructure and energy development, education and skills-training and good governance for the achievement of Africa’s transformation and inclusive development vision were all re-iterated. The roles of the private sector, as well as the African Diaspora were also underscored.

Furthermore, various speakers also emphasized that the resources needed for regional integration, growth, industrialization and successful integration into the global value chains were abundantly available within Africa. In this context, the catalytic role of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) was also highlighted as a means to help unlock these resources.

The meeting re-emphasized the critical importance of the political leadership and peace and security for sustainable development.


About the Meeting

In the context of the African Union Agenda 2063 and its First Ten-Year implementation plan, the proposed meeting focused on highlighting progress made towards regional integration, challenges, and the role of the international community in supporting Africa’s integration efforts. The event particularly highlighted the 10 June 2015 launch of the Tripartite Free Trade Area as the first step towards the achievement of the Continental Free Trade Area envisaged by Agenda 2063 and its first 10-Year Implementation Plan. In addition to featured speakers, the event provided an opportunity for engaging with Permanent Representatives of UN Member States and other relevant stakeholders to share their views.

Organized by the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA), with the African Union Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations, the African Union Commission, the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI), the high-level event was co-chaired by H.E. Mr. Vandi Chidi Minah, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the United Nations and Chair of the African Group for the Month of October, and Mr. Maged Abdelaziz, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa.

See the agenda PDF for more details >>

About Regional Integration

Regional integration has been a core element of African countries’ development strategies. The genesis of a concerted effort to integrate the African continent economically can be traced directly to the Lagos Plan of Action (1980), and to the OAU Charter. This effort resulted in the adoption of the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (Abuja Treaty) in June 1991, which entered into force on 12 May 1994. The AEC was established as an integral part of the OAU with the primary aim of promoting the integration of African economies. The integration strategy adopted by the Abuja Treaty is based on the use of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as ‘building blocks’ for the eventual continental trade bloc. Though the Treaty provided for the creation of five RECs corresponding to the five regions recognised by the OAU, there are currently eight RECs that have been recognised as AEC building blocks.

The Abuja Treaty’s integration strategy sets out a programme that reflects what is commonly described as the market integration model. This programme is to be effected over a lengthy transitional phase which, however, is not to exceed a cumulative period of 40 years. The Abuja Treaty relies on the RECs to provide the foundation for the establishment of the Economic Community with the AEC playing a coordinating role. In January 2012, the African Union (AU) Summit adopted a decision and a declaration that reflected the strong political commitment of the African leaders to accelerate and deepen the continent’s market integration, and agreed on a roadmap for establishing the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by the indicative date of 2017.

The "Declaration on boosting intra-African trade and the establishment of the CFTA adopted on 30 January 2012 “called on member states, RECs, and development partners to adopt the necessary measures toward the effective implementation of the AU Action Plan.

Furthermore, the AU Assembly launched the CFTA negotiations, with an indicative plan to conclude them by December 2017. The creation of a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business people and investments, would help bring closer the continental customs union and African common market and turn the 54 single African economies into a more coherent large market. The larger, more viable economic space would allow African markets to function better and promote competition, as well as resolve the challenge of multiple and overlapping RECs, helping to boost inter-REC trade. Moreover, the CFTA could provide a more conducive environment for industrial diversification and regional complementarities than is currently viable under the existing individual country approach to development.

Read more about regional integration in the concept note PDF >>