Regional Integration and Trade Development in the HoA: Progress and Challenges

Throughout the world, regional integration agenda has been of high priority, as the UN Sustainable Development Goals explicitly stated trade related measures and economic cooperation as instruments to eradicate global poverty. The various goals under SDG call for correcting trade restrictions and distortions in global agricultural markets, increasing aid for trade support for developing countries, especially for low-income countries, and strengthening the means of implementation and the global partnership for sustainable development. It stresses the importance of a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under WTO; increasing the exports of developing countries; and realizing the timely implementation of duty-free, quota-free market access on a lasting basis for all LDCs. At the continental level, the African Union Commission Agenda 2063 articulates regional cooperation and integration as one of the key aspirations of Africa. It states that by 2063, Africa shall be united with world class and integrated infrastructure that crisscrosses the whole continent; and become a continent of seamless borders. Yet the region remains less integrated and faces tremendous challenges to ensure successful economic integration globally as well as regionally. Though there has been some progress in reducing tariff barriers, with simple average effective tariff rate falling from 20 per cent in 1996 to below 12 per cent in 2016 in the continent, non-tariff barriers remain staggeringly high making trading across borders difficult.