‘How Pan-African Parliament ’ll integrate member-states’
WITH the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), Africa’s intra-regional trade is expected to increase by $34.6 billion (about N5.5 trillion) in 2022.
This position was contained in a report launched on the sidelines of the just-concluded African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Also, the President of Pan-African Parliament (PAP) and Nigeria’s House of Representatives member, Bethel Amadi, has defended the proposed new powers to transform the African Union (AU) body from consultative and advisory assembly to a legislative arm.
Amadi, who spoke with The Guardian on the sidelines of the AU summit in Addis Ababa, said the new powers being considered for the continental parliament would create proper legislative frame-work for integration of member-states through free and unencumbered movement of people and service, trade and infrastructural development as sanctioned and proposed to it by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the continent.
He said if approved, the new powers would also give the parliament oversight functions over the African Union Commission in line with the need to build and integrate the continent on transparency, accountability and self-sustaining mechanism.
Amadi dispelled the fear being expressed in some quarters that the proposed new powers for the continental legislative house would usurp the powers of member-states’ parliaments and sovereignty of national governments.
He explained that the AU began the process of translating the body from an advisory and consultative assembly under the protocol establishing it to a legislative one in clearly defined areas about three years ago.
Besides, the House of Representatives has agreed to partner the PAP to boost trade, investment, employment and parliamentary democracy in Africa.
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, gave the assurance when a delegation of PAP led by Amadi, visited the House leadership.
The report launched in Ethiopia entitled “Towards a Continental Free Trade Area”, the fifth edition of assessing regional integration in Africa, is expected to shape the debate and the move towards fast-tracking the establishment of a CFTA, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said yesterday in a statement made available to The Guardian.
The report is jointly published by the ECA, African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Mr. Steven Karingi, who is the Director, Regional Integration and Trade Division at the ECA, was quoted by the statement as saying that the report had been published against the backdrop of a surge in the establishment of new Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and a commitment to strengthening existing RECs across the continent.
He said that with the small economic and population sizes of most African countries and the current global financial and economic environment, “regional integration has become a formidable instrument for sustaining the current economic growth trends across Africa.
“The ground-breaking tripartite initiative established by SADC, COMESA and the EAC is an encouraging sign – it is a springboard for achieving the CFTA with its sizeable population of half a billion people, with a combined GDP of $630 billion.” He added that the initiative was expected to have a domino effect and drive Africa closer towards the CFTA.
The report highlights a number of challenges, including lack of or poor conditions of trade-related infrastructure, burdensome customs and legal procedures and lack of diverse production structures across the majority of countries. These, says the report, are the major culprits behind the slow progress in boosting intra-regional trade in Africa. It emphasises that establishing the CFTA and boosting intra-African trade would therefore “require countries to look beyond the short-term losses in tariff revenue and commit huge financial resources to eliminating trade facilitation bottlenecks.”
At the launch was Mr. Calvin Manduna, Principle Trade expert at the African Development Bank (AfDB) who said that the findings of ARIA V highlight encouraging facts.
“There is greater enthusiasm; and we are seeing tangible changes taking place on the ground as ordinary traders and the private sector create the demand to make the CFTA a reality.
“In some RECs, citizens have the right to move freely across borders without visas and establish and invest in businesses,” he noted, adding that national and regional policies facilitated cross-border capital inflows, resulting in a six-fold increase from $3.4 billion between 2000 and 2002 to $21.7 billion in 2010.
Manduna cautioned, however, that success would greatly depend on the continued level of commitment to regional integration through addressing the key challenges, such as eliminating tariffs, and facilitating measures to ease customs procedures and port handling.
“We have to shift the mindset to attract the best skills from our neighbours rather than letting them go to emerging economies around the world,” he said, adding: “The free movement of persons in Africa should be the jewel on the crown of African integration.”
Ihedioha, who lamented the slow pace of development in Africa, informed the AU Parliament’s delegation of the preparedness of the House towards collaborating with the regional body to facilitate development on the continent.
He notes: “The House is prepared to give the leadership of African Union Parliament the necessary support to succeed. We will partner with the parliament to ensure that it achieves the legislative agenda which it has set out for itself and to ensure that trade, investment and employment are boosted in Africa.”