APDev Trade Knowledge Exchange

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09 May 2011 to 10 May 2011
Abuja, Nigeria
Contact information: 

Dorothy Mwangi
Tel:+27 11 256 3683

Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)

Over the past few years, there has been in Africa a strong renewed interest in regional trade integration as an engine of growth and a catalyst for reform. African countries are on average members of 4-5 preferential trade agreements. This profusion of initiatives has generated a variety of experiences, and in some instances led to advanced forms of regional cooperation and integration such as customs unions, regional power pools, shared security arrangements, monetary unions, visa-free arrangements, supra-national institutions, etc. In most cases, however, implementation remains very unsatisfactory. The overlapping of legal agreements often creates complexity and sometimes incompatibility of rules which impede private sector initiative.

Understanding the need to go well beyond basic tariff liberalization, countries in the region have sought to deepen their integration, for instance considering negotiating services liberalization and pushing regional trade facilitation reforms. Tackling such agenda is, in many respects, considerably more challenging than traditional tariff liberalization. In most cases the relevant policies are both at and behind the border policies, meaning that the domestic regulatory environment must be considered as well. As Regional Economic Communities and their member countries start tackling with complex issues involving complex regulatory dimensions and requiring strong regional coordination, there is a need for better access to deep expertise and experience and capacity building both at the national and regional levels.

One important and untapped source of knowledge (in the sense of expert analysis and awareness raising of barriers to integration), and of solutions to policy challenges, is the own knowledge of stakeholders facing similar issues. Knowledge sharing and discussion around common challenges among the existing Regional Economic Communities (RECs), their officials and advisers could potentially help both REC Secretariats and Member countries become more effective in making regional cooperation a reality.

The proposed Series of REC-to-REC Dialogues on Regional Trade Integration will aim at providing a forum or a platform where the RECs trade officials and other stakeholders could learn from each other’s experience in the various aspects of regional trade integration. This initiative is a key component of the newly-launched African Platform for Development Effectiveness (APDev), designed under the aegis of the African Union (AU) and New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in response to the challenge of capacity that many regional integration initiatives are facing.