tralac Annual Conference 2011
The 2011 tralac Annual Conference took place on 8-9 September in Cape Town, South Africa.
Regional integration in Africa, and in other parts of the world, is engaging a rich and diverse agenda, as countries seek opportunities to enhance their competitiveness and development. This contrasts starkly with the moribund state of the multilateral trade negotiations in the World Trade Organization, and raises fundamental policy, legal, institutional and broader governance and leadership questions. The changing fault lines of the global economic landscape, including the tilt of the poles towards the developing world, are posing challenges which are not fully reflected on the multilateral governance agenda, including that of the World Trade Organization. It’s no surprise that all remains quiet on the Geneva front.
It’s against this background that tralac’s Annual Conference focused on developments in east and southern Africa; providing an opportunity to assess the regional integration agenda in this part of the African continent. We acknowledge that thus far, African integration provides many lessons, rather from the failures, than from the success stories of its many attempts to integrate small markets, small economies and small countries. These features of the African economies, the lack of infrastructure in this region as well as geographical features (e.g. landlocked countries) provide sound economic arguments for regional integration as a development strategy in Africa; yet successes are few and far between.
The dynamism of regional integration in Asia and South East Asia contrasts with the African experience in many respects; including the fact that regional integration in many of those initiatives is competitiveness-seeking. The development of production networks and supply chain linkages drives the development of governance systems through regional rules-based systems. Unfortunately the prospects for this kind of regional integration in Africa are severely limited at this stage; hampered by the lack of industrial diversification and development of most countries. Africa’s integration agenda has to, therefore take account of the lack of infrastructure development (and associated services), skills deficits, lack of commitment to rules-based governance and many more.
The Annual Conference provided an opportunity to engage these issues as they pertain to countries in east and southern Africa. Particular emphasis was placed on a new regional integration endeavour, the Tripartite Free Trade Area. Could this be a watershed for regional integration in Africa?
In addition to the Conference agenda, tralac also launched its Alumni Network, and held its first Alumni Roundtable. This Roundtable was presented by alumni of tralac’s Postgraduate Diploma Programme – as they shared their perspectives on regional integration in east and southern Africa. Find out more here.