ARII’s findings show that Africa has room to improve rankings on all five dimensions of regional integration, and with the recent developments on the continent, change is on the horizon. 

Having entered into force in May 2019 and launched in July 2019, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to be the world's largest free-trade area with a market of more than 1.2 billion people. Over the next five years of implementation, 90% of tariffs on goods will be eliminated. It is anticipated that the shaded area of the graph below will stretch further as countries and regions take advantage of a larger market. Production of goods and services for export and investment in regional infrastructure is expected to rise, and countries will realise improvements in the other aspects of regional integration (production, macroeconomic policy, and the free movement of people). 

ARII measures regional integration on the continent along five dimensions. These dimensions use sixteen indicators to determine the extent to which African countries are integrated within their region.

The more outward a dimension stretches, the more integrated Africa is on that dimension. Scores are calculated on a scale of 0 (not at all integrated) to 1 (entirely integrated).

Africa’s least integrated country 0.147 Africa’s most integrated country 0.625
poorly integrated moderately integrated well integrated

NOTE: The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations. The final boundary between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan has not yet been determined.

Africa’s Scores on Each Dimension

ARII measures regional integration in Africa along five dimensions. These dimensions use sixteen indicators to determine the extent to which African countries are integrated within their region.

The more outward a dimension stretches, the more integrated Africa is on that dimension. Scores are calculated on a scale of 0 (not at all integrated) to 1 (entirely integrated).

Trade Integration
Productive Integration
Macroeconomic Integration
Infrastructural Integration
Free Movement of People

Countries’ Scores and Rankings

Country is a high performer – it scores higher than the average
Country is an average performer – it scores within the average
Country is a low performer – it scores below the average
Countries’ average score

ARII uses a 95 percent confidence interval from the mean to identify countries’ performance as low, average, or high. Under linear conditions, a score below 0.333 is classified as low, a score between 0.334 and 0.667 is classified as average, and a score above 0.668 is classified as high. 

In this graph, a country’s “All Africa” value refers to how well the country scores compared to all other African countries, not just compared to the other members of the regional economic community/ies to which the country belongs.

Interpreting the rankings

Because of ARII’s multidimensional nature, some countries’ rankings for overall regional integration are higher or lower than expected. This is the case for Comoros, Djibouti, and Somalia, which rank highly thanks to their top positions on the free movement of people dimension.

In contrast, Nigeria’s overall ranking on regional integration is low, even though it is the second-most integrated country on the productive dimension and is a strong contributor to gross domestic product. This is due partly to the fact that, at time of measurement, Nigeria had signed but not yet ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement and only a small proportion of its imports came from within the region. 

Headline Findings

Overall performance

With countries averaging a score of 0.327, overall integration on the African continent is low. The high score of only 0.625 shows that even the top performer has the potential to boost integration and tap its benefits. The disparity in countries’ performance is significant, particularly on the productive and infrastructure dimensions. Most countries fare best on the free movement of people and macroeconomic dimensions.

Top performers

South Africa is the most regionally integrated country on the continent. It is also the top performer on regional infrastructure and production (on regional production, South Africa reaches the maximum score). The country fares among the top four on the trade dimension and is an average performer on the macroeconomic dimension. Its weakness lies in the free movement of people, where it ranks low. 

The second-most integrated country on the continent, Kenya, enjoys very good performance on the productive, infrastructure, and free movement of people dimensions. It is among the top performers on regional trade, as it has ratified the AfCFTA agreement. It performs poorly on regional macroeconomic policy. 

In contrast, macroeconomic integration is a strength in Rwanda, which holds Africa’s fourth place on that dimension. Rwanda also boasts very good performance on the free movement of people: the country ratified the AfCFTA agreement promptly and liberalised the mobility of labour by signing the Free Movement of Persons Protocol (Kigali). Despite ranking third on regional integration overall, Rwanda performs poorly on regional production. 

Morocco and Mauritius enjoy the first and second positions on the macroeconomic dimension. Moreover, both countries have good regional infrastructure: Morocco ranks fourth and Mauritius ranks sixth continent-wide. 

Bottom performers

The least integrated African country is South Sudan, which ranks lowest on the macroeconomic and infrastructure dimensions. Next is Eritrea, which figures in the bottom six on the free movement of people, infrastructure, macroeconomic, and trade dimensions. Low performance in Burundi and Sierra Leone is principally driven by a lack of commitment to liberalise the movement of people. Sudan performs very poorly on regional trade.

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