Monitoring Regional Integration in Southern Africa Yearbook 2015/2016
Regional integration continues to enjoy strong political support in Africa. But the winds of change blowing in the global economy are being felt on the continent too. It is clear that the policy focus is shifting from bold trade liberalization focusing primarily on tariff reduction, to more emphasis on industrial development and diversification, and associated distributional and broader development concerns such as job creation, inequality and poverty reduction. Many of these development challenges require cross-border initiatives and cooperation among member states for effective and sustainable solutions.
While the appetite for global governance solutions remains weak, the conclusion of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of the World Trade Organisation, at the Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2013, is an important development. Trade facilitation is a priority for African integration too, given the high costs of intra-regional trade and the proliferation of non-tariff barriers, many of which are associated with customs and border management and standards. On 22 February 2017 the TFA entered into force when the requisite two-thirds of the membership had ratified the agreement. This can also provide impetus for, and find synergy with the trade facilitation agendas of Africa’s regional economic communities.
The increasing reluctance to cede trade policy space in the context of inter-national trade agreements has grown in recent years in African trade and integration arrangements. This increasingly also features in global economic governance trends, and underscores both the United Kingdom (UK) referendum vote to leave the European Union – Brexit – as well as the United States (US) November 2016 election result, with President Donald Trump taking office in January 2017. Both of these developments have important implications for Africa.
The collection of chapters in the 2015/2016 Monitoring Regional Integration Yearbook covers diverse aspects of the Southern African regional integration agenda, including trade matters, non-tariff barriers, the role of cities in regional development and many more. These themes also reflect the broader shifts in the global development agenda. Specific markers of development such as youth, gender, migration, climate change and the environment are increasingly featuring as important policy priorities. These priorities are clearly articulated in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the members of the United Nations in September 2015. They also feature in the regional integration of Southern Africa.
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