Speakers at the African regional integration capacity building and sensitisation programme in Accra have urged African countries to support research into regional integration and training institutions to build the human capacity required to bolster the integration agenda.
They said supporting pan-African regional integration institutions to run orientation programmes that were regionally-focused would help to train trade negotiators to be abreast of unfolding trade dynamics, develop cutting edge analytical skills and incisive negotiation capabilities.
That, they said, would boost the capacity of regional economic communities and the Africa Union (AU) to successfully implement the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to create a single economic market and facilitate free movement of goods, people and capital from July 2019.
The speakers were the Executive Director of the Centre for Regional Integration in Africa (CRIA), Professor S. K. B. Asante; the Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Mrs Mary Chinery-Hesse; the Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), Prof. Emmanuel Nnadozie, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchway.
The two-day event, being held on the theme: “Enhancing national capacity for regional and continental integration in Africa,” is aimed at building the capacity of key actors involved in the implementation of the regional and continental integration.
The participants included high-level representatives of national, regional and continental development institutions, key public and private sector operators and civil society organisations.
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In her opening remarks, Mrs Chinery-Hesse urged those who spoke on behalf of Africa at the negotiating table to be smart and on top of global nuances, and stressed the need for capacity building to be given a priority.
“There is a crucial need to enhance national, regional and continental capacity to generate the skills set for the serious business of accelerating the AU project in all its manifestations,” she said.
Mrs Chinery-Hesse expressed worry that Africa lacked sufficient regional integration institutions to train responsible personnel, and produce such a cadre without which the pace of integration would continue to be slow.
At his turn, Prof. Asante said in spite of great expectations for regional integration for nearly six decades, half of a century of Africa’s regional integration process, unlike that of Europe, Latin America and South East Asia, had not made any appreciable inroads towards the objective of creating a viable regional economic market, let alone an economic community.
He blamed the snail pace of regional integration on lack of capacity-building among academic and training institutions at both the national and regional levels to carry out the enormous responsibilities assigned to them.
“Their carrying capacity is woefully limited. A good number of institutions are beset with weak institutional organisation capacity,” he said.
Prof. Asante pointed out that at both the top management and professional levels, integration institutions did not have the critical mass staff or the minimum human capacity required to effectively run their programmes or implement their mandate.
He said in Europe, the European Union, which was an enduring model of integration, was bolstered by regional integration research and training institutions based in Germany, Belgium, Austria and Greece, while in Latin America, two similar institutes had been developed in Argentina and Uruguay to monitor, evaluate and focus on training of public and private sector executives and CSOs on the management of regional integration.
For his part, Prof. Nnadozie stressed the need for key institutions on the continent to be given the deserved attention to empower them to perform effectively and drive the African regional and continental integration agenda.
He mentioned the Assembly of Heads of Governments, the AU and regional economic communities, as well as the African Central Bank, African Monetary Fund and the African Investment Bank, as key institutions needed for effective regional integration.
In a speech read on her behalf, the Foreign Minister said intra-African trade which was currently about 12 per cent, was expected to rise to 52 per cent above the base by 2022, with the implementation of the AfCFTA.
To attain that, Ms Botchway urged African countries to stop being suppliers of primary produce for developed countries and being consumers of finished foreign products.