African Union Commission seeks speedy Economic Integration
Addis Ababa, Jan. 30 -- African Union Commission Chairperson Jean Ping has called for a speedy economic integration on the continent to improve the people's wellbeing. Mr. Ping made the appeal at the 18th ordinary session of AU's Assembly in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, amid concern that African countries do not trade enough among themselves. “The growth of intra-African trade would lay the foundations for a stronger and more sustainable economic growth,” he told the gathering. This year's Assembly is focusing on boosting intra-African trade.
For this reason, he welcomed an arrangement between the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to form a free trade area. He also called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) to emulate the concept. Increasing the level of trade within the continent “is of particular importance,” he said.
On efforts to develop the continent's infrastructure, Mr. Ping urged members not to relent in their investments in the sector. In addition, he called for the adoption of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA). The Commission only recently finalized the programme with the help of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Community for Africa (UNECA).
Mr. Ping also called for increased action to ensure food self-sufficiency on the continent. He expressed satisfaction with what he described as the “growing success” of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), a NEPAD initiative to help African countries reach a higher path of economic growth through agriculture-led development.
On a positive note, the AU Commission Chairperson said in spite of the difficult international situation, economic growth on the continent has remained robust in the past year. Africa grew at an average of 5 to 6 percent in 2011, said Mr. Ping. He referred to the front cover of an issue of the weekly “Economist” newspaper a decade ago that tagged Africa as the “Hopeless Continent.” The same publication in a December 2011 edition proclaimed “Africa Rising”, Mr. Ping told his audience. The new headline “speaks volumes about the long way Africa has come and the changes that have taken place. Many observers consider that Africa is on the verge of an economic takeoff, like China and India some decades ago.”