Regional Integration: re-branding The Gambia as a hub for international trade and business

With the birth of the African Renaissance the role of Regional integration in Africa is more pertinent than ever before in delivering food and energy security; in generating jobs for the increasing number of young people; and in alleviating poverty and in diversifying economies away from a dependency theory on the export of just a few mineral products and delivering shared prosperity based on fundamental common values.

Regional trade integration is a positive move in the right direction if we are to allow African goods, services and people to flow effortlessly across our borders to reduce costs and to help firms become competitive enough to link to these valuable resources. The integration of regional markets through the elimination of non-tariff barriers can reduce trade and operating costs. It also eases the constraints faced by many firms in gaining access not only to demand for their products but also to the essential services and skills that they need as to boost productivity and diversify into higher-value-added areas. We know that when trade flows are faster and more cost-effective, business and consumers in the regions benefit.

Global experience highlights that the development of adequate regional infrastructure in the African sub-region is paramount and requires strong cooperation and coordination among all parties involved, along with a legal and regulatory environment that allows for the shared use of infrastructure. Designing and building such infrastructure and a regulatory environment in a multi-country context is, however, very complex: Despite this complexity we already witness today the impact connections made by road, by air or by airwaves have on Africa’s integration. It’s continual success however involves a wide range of political-economic issues that need to be addressed and a common will if we are to succeed as region.

Regional integration I believe should be ranked as a development priority for Africa. Every one of us, not just policy makers and decision makers, have a role to play in making integration a reality for the continent because productive integration is important as it facilitates production for the continent across multiple different sectors, by being part of regional and global value chain; Free Movement of People across Africa represents a powerful boost to economic growth and skills development, Financial & Macroeconomic Integration with capital flowing freely allows  investments to  increase  and finance is allocated where it generates productivity. Regional integration is also relevant for Africa’s resource-rich countries – for the diversification of their countries’ economies.

Regional integration among African economies, therefore, provides both opportunities and challenges to the sound management of resources and translating wealth from these resources into diversified economies and equitable growth.