By Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO, NEPAD Agency
Globalisation is a reality that has been defined in numerous ways and across different time frames. Whether we date it to the first venture of Homo Sapiens out of Africa 100, 000 years ago or to the technologically driven acceleration of world transactions from the 1980s, globalisation is an essential element in the history of mankind.
For African countries, global interdependence should start locally by strengthening regional economic integration. These are the key factors that are likely to inhibit the rapid and sustained growth of many individual African countries: the small size of the typical African economy, the fact that many of them are landlocked, with poorly developed infrastructure services, insufficient economic and social stability. Countries that cannot compete regionally are unlikely to compete globally. One way of integrating Africa into globalisation trends is through regional integrations.
Our regional economic integration represents our most ambitious political innovation since the wave of decolonisation that started in the late 1950s. An example is our decision to integrate three regional economic communities into a single Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA) covering 26 countries with 620 million people and supporting a $1.5 trillion economy. The successful negotiation of the TFTA inspired Africans to embark on talks to agree on a Continental Free Trade Area by 2017. If the TFTA were a country its trade volume would comprise the 13th largest economy in the world. Here is a clear example of how the geographical scale of the continent is only matched by its economic prospects arising from regional integration.
Taking this vision further will depend largely on the extent to which our continent is able to invest in adequate energy, transportation, and telecommunications infrastructure. Africa’s regional integration must take into account its vast land mass. One can fit the United States, Western Europe, India, China and Britain into Africa. This land mass includes vast deserts, mountains, forests, and other geological formations that curb transportation possibilities. The case of the aviation industry in Africa, with its associated logistical services, demonstrates how implementing regional interdependence policies can foster global competitiveness.
While the European Union seeks to deepen a centralised governance structure, Africa’s model of regional integration focuses on strengthening regional trade integration without threatening the sovereignty of member states. This approach is aligned with the emerging trends in globalisation, whereby local identities and global networks are strengthened concomitantly as part of a win-win formula. This regionalisation, rather than being opposite to globalisation, is precisely what enables our impactful participation in globalisation.
The project of redefining Africa on the global scene is ours to build by leveraging on the accelerated pace of globalisation and our own model of regional integration. While we redefine our footing on the global scene, though, let us not lose sight of the distinctness of our people and our drive to find effective approaches to solve problems particular to the continent. It is the marrying of these two prerogatives that makes Africa powerful when it speaks with one voice.