The nature of the 21 century globalisation has given impetus to the focus on regional integration as a strategy for achieving sustainable economic growth. Across the world, countries are coalescing around regional formations that increase opportunities, share risks and maximize opportunities for development. Reflecting this global trend is growing consensus in Africa that by merging its economies and pooling its capacities, endowments and energies, the continent can overcome its daunting development challenges.
Deeper integration would allow it not only to achieve sustained and robust economic growth but also ensure poverty alleviation, enhanced movement of goods, services, capital, labor, social economic policy coordination and harmonization, infrastructure development as well as the promotion of peace and security within and between regions.
For these reasons, continental integration is at the heart of Africa’s progress agenda as stipulated in key basic documents of the African Union, including the Constitutive Act (2000), the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (1991) and more recently, the African Union Strategic Pillar no 2 on Development, Integration and Cooperation.
This is further underscored in the AU Union Vision, which is to be “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.” This vision is elaborated in the mission of the AU which seeks to create “An efficient and value adding institution driving the African Integration and development process in close collaboration with African Union Member States, the Regional Economic Communities and African Citizens.”
The ultimate outcome of integration is Africa’s “…long term sustainable growth, job creation, poverty reduction and improved living standards for its people.” Given the growing global competitiveness, Africa’s degree of integration will determine its participation in the global economic arena.
In an effort to accelerate this process, Africa has identified a number of drivers for integration:
- Accelerated infrastructure development to boost inter-connectivity, reliability and cost effectiveness in a range of sectors such as ICT, energy, transport and water.
- Promotion of intra-African trade and investments
- Strengthened role of the private sector as a strategic partner in governing development in Africa.
- Promotion of diversification of the economy.
- Establishment of continental standards and quality assurance mechanism;
- Promotion of the agricultural development and food security through Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP);
- Facilitation of free movement of people, goods, capital and services and building continent-wide human networks.
Promoting intra-Africa trade is particularly important given the small size of the national domestic markets and thus the strategic importance of building Free Trade Areas within the context of effective Regional Economic Communities and towards the realization of the African Economic Community as stipulated in the Abuja Treaty. The AEC establishes Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as the pillars and building blocks of continental integration. The MIP provides the framework for promoting convergence of RECs programmes at the continental level while enhancing collaboration within Member States and with strategic partners, encompassing both traditional and emerging economies. The African Union Minimum Integration Programme (MIP) is the focal strategy for the implementation of the Abuja Treaty by promoting inter-RECs harmonization initiatives and coordination between the AU and RECs. MIP is thus a flagship programme of the AU
Among the priority approaches include creating greater coherence of Africa’s continental integration through the principles of subsidiarity and complementarity. Towards this end, there is need for Africa to fast track the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to intra-regional trade, free movement of factors of production and to hasten infrastructure development.
Among the main challenges to Africa’s integration is the slow progress towards harmonization of the Regional Economic Communities as effective building blocks for implementation of the continental integration. This is in addition the delay in the finalization of the Minimum Integration Programme (MIP). Further Africa’s intra-regional trade remains one of the lowest worldwide at only about 10-12%.
Kenya continues to play an active role in supporting the long term economic endeavors of Africa within the context of regional and continental frameworks of development. Towards this end Kenya is committed to work with all actors including AU Commission, Member States and RECs towards the realization of Africa’s integration. It is memberships to the EAC, COMESA and IGAD. Kenya continues to take a lead role in building strong regional institutions as a basis for grounding the African integration agenda. At the national levels, this commitment is expressed in Kenyan strategic document, vision 2030, which envisages the transformation of Kenya to a middle income country by 2030. Significantly, regional integration and cross border cooperation are identified as the critical drivers for the economic pillar of this national strategy.
Role of the Mission
To achieve Kenya’s strategic interests in the promotion of regional integration the Mission:
- Supports the Africa’s integration agenda including ensuring effective representation in continental and regional conferences and meetings.
- Continuously explores available opportunities for Kenya to continue to play a lead role as a host for African Union’s Conference diplomacy on integration and to promote Kenya’s accession and adherence to regional integration regulations and procedures.
- Extends these commitments to its relations with actors are the bilateral level.
- Support for the ratification and implementation of all the EAC and COMESA Protocols on integration
- Support for the domestication of MIP within national and regional legislative mechanism and the integration of such mechanism into national development plans
- Promote the implementation of integration projects including development of cross-border infrastructure
- Support the establishment of inter-RECs Free Trade Areas within the context of EAC-COMESA-SADC framework
- Support the cross border harmonization of socio-economic policies focusing on boosting bilateral trade with neighboring countries