Tuesday, June 29, 2010

EAC Common Market Commences 1 July

On July 1, 2007, EAC members Rwanda and Burundi joined the East African Community as the fourth and fifth members respectively of what is now seen as one of the more successful regional economic communities.

Three years later in 2010, July 1 will play host to the establishment of a common market for the EAC.

Is there something about 1 July? Someone else might ask "is there something about the EAC".

There sure is! It is increasingly being seen as a to-watch-out-for REC.

What will become known as the EAC Common Market has been touted by the Secretary-General as a "milestone the symbolizes strong political will and firm commitment by all EAC stakeholders in deepening and widening integration" (http://allafrica.com/stories/201006290221.html)

This date will, in fact mark the "commencement of the operationalisation of the EAC Common Market..." maintained Ambassador Juma Mwapachu. He continues that:

"What we have achieved so far is only the basic legal framework that outlines what needs to be done and implemented for the Common Market to be meaningful and to have impact in transforming the lives of the East African Community citizens,"

A piece featured in VOA News goes a bit further.

First, it talks about how Thursday 1 July will see the commencement of the EAC Common Market, following a protocol that was signed in November 2009. It maintains:

The protocol is part of a vision that would see the nations eventually form a federated state, complete with a single currency and unified foreign policy.

Secondly, it touches on the detractors who believe that KENYA, given it is the de facto hegemon of the region (though few might be quick to admit it) might be the country to most benefit from this EAC Common Market:

Critics of the union say that Kenya, the region's largest and most dynamic economy, is likely to reap the majority of the benefits. In smaller countries, such as Rwanda and Burundi, there are fears that Kenya's larger businesses will push aside the local economy.

According to Shaw, these fears distort the larger picture.

"Kenya is a hub, it is the hub and it will benefit a lot," says Shaw. "At the same time, do not underestimate the potential of benefits for other countries. Kenya has a lot of human resources and skills. That can only benefit the region as a whole

The reality of the situation, however, is that only time will tell how this EAC Common Market will fare. At the end of the day, as the article maintains, "it likely will take some time before the borders are opened"

That TURKEY's ambassador to Kenya has already announced that his country would establish an Export Processing Zone within the EAC to maximise the potential of the region is surely the greatest indication ever that the East African Community might be up the right path on attracting potential FDI.

Now it's time to tighten the regulation to ensure that the private sector complements a people-centred EAC!

Monday, June 21, 2010

After Schengen@25, towards a Schengen-like ECOWAS Space?

How very quickly 25 years comes--and how easy it is forget! But if you did not know, hope you have now chalked it under your calendar--the Schengen zone/space is officially 25 years old!

Since 1985, the Schengen area has acted as: (according to WIKIPEDIA)

a single state for international travel purposes with border controls for travellers travelling in and out of the area, but with no internal border controls.

If ever anyone had any doubts about the validity of (European) regional integration, this Schengen area pretty much redeemed that notion.

I quite like the preparedness that comes with the application of an EU state as a "Schengen country" (currently at 25 countries now). Wikipedia maintains:

Before fully implementing the Schengen rules, each state needs to have its preparedness assessed in four areas: air borders, visas, police cooperation, and personal data protection. This evaluation process involves a questionnaire and visits of EU experts to selected institutions and workplaces of the country under assessment.

The West African Economic Community(UEMOA)--established 1994--has since 1 October, 2009 made it possible such that "any visa issued by a UEMOA state will be recognised across the Union, allowing the holder to move freely between any of the eight member states, the first stage in the implementation of a common visa by 2011." (http://www.voxafrica.com/en/news/economy/uemoa-moves-towards-common-visa)

At the ECOWAS-level, on 7 May, 2010, a meeting took place in Cotonou, where experts adopted a new road-map for the implementation of the single visa policy within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

This will be known as an "Ecovisa", and is touted pretty much like the Schengen visa.

Unlike the UEMOA common visa scheduled to take off in 2011, the "Ecovisa" will take off in 2012. Currently, though, it's possible for West African/ECOWAS citizens like myself to travel freely within the sub-region with simply my passport. I guess a single-entry visa would simply facilitate freedom of movement--especially for non-ECOWAS entities.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A "Regional Stasis" in Latin American integration?

In what is the latest bashing on Latin American integration, a piece in Taipei Times paints an-almost hopeless view of that regions efforts. The piece, penned by Augusto Varas, starts with MERCOSUR, writing that:

The Argentine academic Roberto Bouzas says MERCOSUR is in a critical state of affairs, owing to the inability of its institutions to maintain “the common objectives which drove its member states to engage in the process of regional integration and the consequent loss of focus and capacity to prioritize underlying political problems.”

Then it goes on to point out that it is BRAZIL that wants to establish itself as the hegemon--"intent on assuming a regional and global political role that corresponds to its growing economic weight."

On UNASUR, it writes:

The proposed Union of South American Nations (Unasur), like the South American Defense Council, is part of a Brazilian regional strategy to encourage cooperation within Latin America in order to counterbalance the power of the US and act as a mediator in regional disagreements. While the Unasur proposal may have been formulated in a more rigorous way than other initiatives, its failure to contemplate trade integration means that there is nothing to tie member states together beyond political will.

It ends with an quick, albeit superficial, analysis of the proposed Organisation of Latin American States I have written about before here:

What is important is what he writes:

...Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa proposed some time ago an Organization of Latin American States to replace the Organization of American States (OAS). Although the inclusion of all Latin American states goes some way toward repairing the weakened Brazilian-Mexican axis, and creates a new and more positive environment for future political coordination, this new organization is unlikely to contribute much to actual regional integration

It is generally a good read that merits more critique than I am giving it now. Suffice-to-say that the latest report by the UN Economic Commission on Africa--Assessing Regional Integration in Africa IV maintains on p.495 that:

MERCOSUR has met obstacles in consolidating its customs unions, and there are new delays and exceptions to the agreement, especially in the field of textiles and apparel. Nonetheless, MERCOSUR trade has been the most dynamic in the Latin American region, especially with respect to intra-MERCOSUR exports, which increased by almost 140.3 percent since 2004...

Although the picture is not altogether-perfect, ARIA IV does write that:

...during its 19 years of existence, MERCOSUR has proved successful in promoting regional peace and democracy. It has generated high-level political dialogue and cooperation among many domains, from justice and the fight against terrorism to the environment...

In the final analysis, I think I gave the game away when I wrote how the article reeks of dyspeptic gloom about regional integration efforts in Latin America. If he thinks this is chaotic, I wonder what he will have to say about African integration efforts!;-)

Let's face it, though--against such authoritative statistics by no less than the UN Economic Commission on Africa(UNECA), I think the writer better come again!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Uneasy Lies the Crown of India, and the Kyrgystan Question as Seen by the SCO

Last time I wrote about India, it was in connection with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and how it and Iran were then-observers.

How things change!

As I write this, India is facing the prospect of being a fully-fledged member, where Iran has been royally snubbed!:

In previous summits, the Iranian leader had been warmly welcomed. Last year, SCO leaders congratulated him on a disputed election victory.

In any event, the ban is formal and no country has yet to be admitted. For years experts noted, the admission of new members has been part of SCO discussions and expectations were high.

Media in India and Pakistan welcomed the new membership rules as a success for their countries.

Now the issue will be turned over to diplomatic experts from the various countries, but in some member states, doubts are being raised over the danger of bringing the Indo-Pakistani dispute into the organisation.

Even if India does not say it, I can understand why India, in so many ways, would feel uneasy having Pakistan so closely allied to it in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation--and it's all about Kashmir.

All that said, I believe it would be premature for Russia, China, and some of the other -"stans" (Kazakhstan; Tajikistan; Krygyzstan) to think that having those two countries could destabilise the almost-decade-old regional grouping. This is because the issue of international terrorism predicated on Al-Queda (and less on Kashmir-terrorism) seems to be the more relevant off-late.

Truth be told, I have a serious problem with India and Pakistan joining SCO as members, especially when they seem to be putting little effort into the establishment and development of SAARC. I have less a problem with Pakistan which clout I think would NOT be as great as that of the emerging hegemon-India.

Anyone who has forgotten the "BRIC" alliance of Brazil-Russia-India-China will notice that Pakistan will not feature there anytime soon!

But to be more specific about why the SCO is featured here in this post, let me just say that when I heard of the outbreak of ethnic violence in Uzbekistan, it did not even strike me at all that the country had played host to a summit (as I didn't know!), but the country did ring a bell with me over the SCO.

I re-call that the SCO has been instrumental in formulating a so-called "Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure"--something that made me giddy with excitement a while back. In so many ways, this has resonance with why Pakistan might want to be allied to it.

The Uzbekistan/Kyrgyzstan is not being portrayed as a terrorist problem--more of an unfortunate ethnic one. I find it regrettable given these two countries belong to the increasingly-powerful SCO. I had hoped to read more substantive things coming therefore from the SCO. All I have read so far is this from Pakistan's Daily Times when it writes:

The SCO [has] called for restoring stability in restive Kyrgyzstan through dialogue. Nearly 100 people have died after ethnic riots erupted in southern Kyrgyzstan. SCO’s member states pledged that they are willing to provide necessary support and assistance. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said, “We have a sincere interest in overcoming as quickly as possible this stage of interior disturbances in Kyrgyzstan. We also support the establishment of a modern government that is able to solve the country’s pressing social and economic problems.”

Watch this space as I follow the travails of the SCO in the restoration of peace in this region.

This might well prove to be a test-case for the SCO!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Fwd: ECA Press Release: CODA to study financing of regional integration in Africa

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <ECAWEB@uneca.org>
Date: 2010/5/26
Subject: ECA Press Release: CODA to study financing of regional integration in Africa
To: ATameru@uneca.org

CODA to study financing of regional integration in Africa

ECA Press Release No. 40/2010

Abidjan 26 May 2010 (ECA) - The Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA), convened a policy forum on "Financing Regional Integration in Africa"on 25th May, Africa Day, as a side event of the 2010 Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group in Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire.

The forum discussions focused on issues related to the financing requirements for enhancing regional integration in Africa, including regional infrastructure development, and the possibilities of establishing a new regional integration fund to drive this agenda forward. Participants included the Chair of the CoDA Board, President Festus Mogae, as well as the majority of the CoDA Board, members of the private sector and civil society, and, experts on regional integration from the African Union Commission (AUC) the AfDB and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

The forum concluded with agreement that CoDA would seek to take this process forward by commissioning a detailed and comprehensive study on how the financing of regional integration could, and should, be up-scaled, in particular, through the use of innovative and wide-ranging modalities.

Advocacy to promote regional integration is one of CoDA's priority areas of focus. In that context, the CoDA Chair and Board members also participated in the official launch in Abidjan, on 24th May, of the 4th edition of "Assessing Regional Integration in Africa (ARIA IV)", a biannual report jointly prepared by ECA, AUC and AfDB. According to the latest report, entitled "Enhancing intra-African trade", over 80 percent of Africa's total exports are still destined for Europe, Asia and America while a comparable percentage of the continent's imports are obtained from the same markets. ARIA IV concludes that a focus on regional integration is critical to accelerate the transformation of fragmented economies to expand markets and widen economic space.

During the working sessions of the CoDA Board, which were also held in Abidjan, the Board adopted a resolution approving a Statute for the initiative, which transforms it into a fully independent entity, that will be supported by the private sector and civil society, as well as the AUC, AfDB, and ECA. It was announced that the search process for a full time Executive Director to head the new organization would begin shortly with the advertisement of the vacancy announcement for the position.

President Mogae also informed a press conference on Tuesday evening that the Board had agreed a programme of work for the rest of 2010. This, he said, included advocacy activities on climate change in collaboration with the AUC, AfDB and ECA (which are jointly convening the 7th African Development Forum on this theme in October 2010), advocacy on the threat of transnational crime to political stability in Africa, and the organization of a side event at the forthcoming African Union Summit in Kampala in July, 2010, highlighting the regional integration issues featured in ARIA.

The next CoDA meeting of the CoDA Board will be convened in November 2010 in Mauritius.


Background: The Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) is a new, independent, international, African-owned forum that identifies and discusses issues of importance to Africa's development within a global context. It is a think tank that advocates for the continent, brings together a range of stakeholders to promote dialogue and provides a platform for African voices to be heard. It is policy-oriented, and works in collaboration with other African and international organizations addressing issues of Africa's security, peace, governance and development. CoDA is sponsored by, but is not a program of, the African Union Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa or the African Development Bank. It is governed by a Board of eminent African and non-African personalities and receives support from the private sector.

Issued by:
ECA Information and Communication Service
P.O. Box 3001
Addis Ababa

Tel: 251 11 5445098
Fax: +251-11-551 03 65
E-mail: ecainfo@uneca.org
Web: www.uneca.org