What Africa needs first, according to the OECD’s Forum on African Perspectives, is the establishment of viable political systems that encourage collective initiatives, that in turn lead towards sustainable economic integration. Today 60% of world trade takes place within regional trade blocs. Large markets matter, especially for small economies and for least developed countries, because they create new investment opportunities, enhance the production of tradable commodities, and encourage the flow of foreign direct investment. In order for Africa to meet the target of halving poverty by 2015, its economy would need to grow by 7% per year – a big challenge for an area whose economic growth has hovered at around 3.3% for the past decade. While the debate is still open, regional integration may provide an opportunity to pool resources, reduce costs and improve capacities in trade. Economics aside, issues and challenges that can be more effectively addressed through regional approaches include HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, riparian issues and environmental questions. While the United States of Africa may or may not be the ultimate goal, regional approaches accompanied by domestic reforms could provide a valuable avenue towards an effective response to globalisation.
• Regional Integration in Africa, OECD, 2002.
©OECD Observer No 231/232, May 2002