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Ethiopia: Towards Reaping Regional Integration Rewards

Recognizing the fact that countries which have a common concern for shared progress would all the time prefer growing together to being rivalries and spend time attacking one another/each other east the African region is now connecting and enjoying regional integration. True, Ethiopia and countries of the Horn have now well capitalized on nurturing regional integration and planning for common prosperity.

No doubt, regional integration holds tremendous promise for Africa. Regional integration helps countries overcome divisions that impede the flow of goods, services, capital, people and ideas. These divisions are a constraint to economic growth, especially in developing countries like ours. Hence, all countries of the globe have to promote regional integration through common physical and institutional infrastructure.

It is also well recognized that divisions, which created by geography, poor infrastructure and inefficient policies between/among countries are impediments to economic growth. But there is a remedy to address these divisions. Regional integration allows countries to overcome these costly divisions by integrating goods, services and markets’ linkages thereby facilitating the flow of trade, capital, energy, people and ideas.

Regional integration allows countries to overcome these costly divisions integrating goods, services and factors’ markets, thus facilitating the flow of trade, capital, energy, people and ideas.

There are a number of indicators in this regard. A number of nations in Africa are now well aware of the myriads of benefits integration holds. Let alone for countries which have accommodated a number of people in their circumferential territory, integration or amicable way of running activities is of paramount importance in making lives of individuals happy in due course of their interaction.

Yes, integration pays off as it ensures that all systems work together and in harmony to increase production and productivity. It also aims at resolving the complexity associated with increased communication between systems among nations of the continent.

Bringing together nations of the continent in general and those which are situated in the Horn of Africa in particular is of significantly useful in equipping them to be competent with other nations of the universe. As stated time and again, and as the course of interaction among countries have portrayed, organizations rely on several applications to assist them with specific functions.

Integration itself is regarded as a process by which different independent units are brought together or united to form a new larger unit. Specifically, regional integration requires cooperation between/among countries in terms of trade, investment and domestic regulation, Transport, ICT and energy infrastructure, macroeconomic and financial policy as well as the provision of other common public goods like shared natural resources, security, health, education and other related factors.

Cooperation in these areas has taken different institutional forms, with different levels of policy commitments and shared sovereignty, and has had different priorities in different nations. True, countries can integrate their economies, or elements of their thriftiness. They can also integrate themselves socially, economically, politically, culturally and even militarily. When countries embark on a process of regional integration, they agree to limit their constitutional authority or responsibility in the functions they are integrating.

In the era of globalization and working together for meeting global challenges, unless countries integrate themselves with neighboring ones or even following cross border and trans boundary fashion. Countries can without a shadow of doubt modernize their infrastructure, economy, social integration and cultural values by connecting themselves with others utilizing several spheres at the disposal of such a viable manner. It would thus help nations draw important lessons from those which have recorded remarkable return out of integration and working together.

Yes, regional integration plays a pivotal role in thriving the socio-economic trajectory of countries and bridging the gap witnessed among/between different states.

Regional integration is a process of uniting a region so that the countries of the realm can work together for their common advancement. It allows the participating states to perform functions that can be more effectively carried out if they are undertaken together rather than by individual states. Joint or cooperative action by a group of states, through regional integration, allows these states to provide common services to their citizens with greater efficiency and at reduced costs since their resources are pooled and well amalgamated.

Interestingly, when countries embark on regional economic integration, they create a larger market or economic space for the production and sale of the goods and services they produce and for the movement of other resources like capital and their people. This larger market and the free circulation of goods and other economic resources of the countries within it, results in greater trade, business, and economic opportunities in the countries and in their general economic advancement.

Countries that are engaged in regional integration arrangements obtain a wider, more diverse pool of physical and human resources with which their economies and societies can be well synchronized. Countries therefore embark on regional integration because, essentially, regional integration is about working and building together for the good of all and to the disadvantage of none.

A strong regional integration grouping leads to peace and stability between the member countries and provides them with greater visibility and weight internationally as they face the world as one, rather than speaking and negotiating as separate, single-handed with weaker voices. As a regional group they are better able to compete internationally and come up with influential power.

The issue of regional integration has been well acknowledged as a result of its economic and other related benefits. It is traditionally understood as a way to encourage trade flow between member states, to facilitate more efficient allocation of resources by stimulating competition and increasing the capacity of the internal market.

That is expected to result in faster economic growth and, consequently, increased per capita income. Actually, economic benefits truly are the main driving force of regional integration. With this goal in mind, Ethiopia has always worked to foster regional integration addendum and attempted to reinvigorate its economy, investment flow, people-to-people ties and cross-regional as well as cross-continental dynamism with the Horn and beyond.

Undeniably, economic gain is not an imminent property of regional integration as it does not occur at all stages of the process and is neither its primary goal nor its driving force. Instead, regional integration aims to respond to the changing global order, which means helping member states strengthen their international position and protect themselves from undesirable external influence. Most importantly, Africa’s integration is no longer a matter of choice. Against an international backdrop of changing political and economic priorities, Africa must plot a new course for its industrialization and economic development using the momentum of regional integration since it is a feasible means real yummy fruits.

For Ethiopia, which has housed over 120 million people, not only is integration a considerable potential but it is also instrumental in promoting equitable economic growth through markets as well as reducing conflict and enhancing trade liberalization.

The very point here is development economists, policymakers, researchers and other crucial personalities in Ethiopia and those of nations of the Horn and beyond are expected to discuss the shape and future of continental integration and common growth thereby making it globally competent, too. Yes, exploring potentials and untapped resources has to receive due attention for enhancing the broad and inclusive integration of African economies.

Needless to state, countries of the African continent do have a range of means to associate themselves for working together and become much stronger. Of the many ways to integrate Africa, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement can be cited as a very good example. It has sought to bring Africa into the global trade environment as one continent instead of acting as individual countries.

Yes, the AfCFTA agreement has brought together the largest number of countries within a free trade area in the world. Some 44 countries signed the pact and it proposes to create a single market for goods and services, with free movement of people and investments across all countries of the continent. This will redefine trade relations among African states and promises to promote trade liberalization and improves interactions within the existing regional economic assemblage.

The priority of economic integration must be balanced by those of social, cultural and political integration to accelerate the already commenced socioeconomic integration. The preponderance of bilateral and multilateral agreements between African states and the international community should also be reviewed to ensure that existing and future trade and investment set up align with regional and continental integration.

Another key concern is that integration must be people-centered, with stronger citizens’ partnerships, especially among Africa’s burgeoning youth population, private sector players and civil society institutions, in order to ensure sustainable development.

Africa must industrialize to diversify away from natural resources and create jobs for its fast-growing young population. And by boosting continental trade, consumption, and investment, regional integration can be a strong vector for improving productivity, building manufacturing powerhouses, and developing credible African brands.

In sum, regional integration is decisive to maximize the benefits of globalization and to stimulate development in countries by improving productive capacity and encouraging investments which hold the most economic potential. It can also be promoted through common physical and institutional infrastructure.

Regional integration can lead to substantial economic gains as it allows countries to, among others, improve market efficiency, share the costs of public goods or large infrastructure projects, reap other non-economic benefits, such as peace and security. Hence, countries must reconcile their different preferences on priorities for regional integration, economic geography, or preferences for sovereignty in specific areas. They should be committed to expand trade and investment flows, allocation of economic activity, growth, income distribution, and address lack of adequate complementary policies and institutions that may lead to inefficient outcomes. In so doing, Africa can reap satisfactory returns out of regional integration.

BY MENGESHA AMARE

THE ETHIOPIAN HERALD WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2023

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