The East Africa Community bloc has been ranked the best integrated among the eight Regional Economic Communities in Africa, while the Southern Africa Development Community was least integrated, according to the second Africa Regional Integration Index (ARII 2019) published last week.
Overall, the report shows low levels of integration on the continent, at an average index score of 0.327 out of 1.
The report is published by the African Union, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank.
The 2019 Index, which builds on the first edition published in 2016, provides up-to-date data on the status and progress of regional integration in Africa.
The index report says Africa is still particularly poorly integrated on the productive and infrastructural dimensions, which are key aspects of the foundations of regional integration.
The ARII uses 16 indicators, grouped into five dimensions, to measure how well each country and region is integrated with its neighbours.
The five dimensions are; free movement of people, trade integration, productive integration, infrastructural integration and macroeconomic integration. Free movement of people is the strongest dimension with the weakest dimension being productive integration.
FACTOR IN COVID-19
“Whereas the Index edition we are releasing has data cut off points in 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic has reopened the question of whether enough is being done in advancing regional integration to help Africa withstand systematic shocks such as the one being experienced today,” said Stephen Karingi, Regional Integration Division Director at the ECA.
By these metrics, South Africa is Africa’s most regionally integrated country because it outperforms on productive and infrastructure integration.
But it underperforms on the free movement of people. However, its score of just 0.625, is way ahead of the second best Kenya (0.444) and third Rwanda (0.434).
The worst integrated countries are South Sudan and Eritrea doing poorly on almost every measure.
The EAC’s scores on the five dimensions of regional integration had an average score of 0.537 with strongest dimension being free movement of people while productive integration was rated as weakest dimension with an average of 0.434.
This belies the strong performance of Kenya (0 .910) and Uganda (0.822) and is best explained by the low positions of Burundi (near zero) and South Sudan (0 .073). Low performance in Burundi and Sierra Leone is principally driven by their lack of commitment to liberalise.