The 2019 Africa Regional Integration Index (ARII) assesses the regional integration status and efforts of countries that are members of the eight regional economic communities recognised by the African Union. ARII compares each country to the other countries in its regional economic community and to the countries of Africa as a whole.
Why are some countries and regional economic communities more regionally integrated than others? Part of the answer is geographical proximity. Evidence indicates that countries that share a border tend to exchange more goods and services with each other and transaction costs are often lower. But historical links, comparative advantages, regional policies, and topography also play a role. By measuring integration in each country and each regional economic community along five dimensions, the ARII reveals areas in which that country and community’s integration policies work better. It also indicates areas needing improvement. Policymakers and others can use this critical information to better allocate resources and implement decisions.
ARII also reveals top and bottom performers. This has several advantages. Spotting the top performers or identifying those that have progressed on a given dimension of regional integration can help pinpoint success factors. This is the first step toward replicating those factors or adapting them to a different environment. Similarly, spotting the bottom performers, or countries and regions whose status has fallen, can reveal why one country or region is progressing less well and suggest where efforts will most pay off. This helps member states and regional economic communities determine their comparative advantages and replicate best practices from peers.
Experts agree that regional integration expands markets and trade, enhances cooperation, mitigates risk, and fosters sociocultural cooperation and regional stability. Regional integration has also been shown to maximise the benefits of globalisation while countering its negative effects, and to stimulate development in least-developed countries by improving productive capacity and encouraging investments in those pieces of infrastructure that holds the most economic potential.
Regional integration holds tremendous promise for Africa. ARII’s role is to provide benchmarking and monitoring data that policymakers can use to realise that promise.