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Apraku bemoans too many economic blocs in Africa

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Accra, Oct. 27, GNA - Dr Kofi Konadu Apraku, Minister of Regional Cooperation and NEPAD, on Thursday called for the rationalization of economic cooperation blocs on the Continent saying the overlapping of membership of economic blocs was of much concern to the African Union. He noted that whereas the existence of economic cooperation organizations all over the Continent might be an indication of the importance attached to economic integration, but this must be checked to know the direction that it was going and how to get there. Dr Apraku was speaking at the Consultative Meeting on the Rationalization of the Regional Economic Communities for Central, North and West African Regions in Accra.

He noted that a study conducted by the Economic Commission for Africa in 2003 showed that in every sub-region of Africa, there existed more than one regional economic community and out of the 53 African countries, studied, 27 were found to be members of two regional economic communities while 128 others were members of three regional economic communities.

The ECA study also found that all these regional economic communities shared a common vision and concerned with issues of free movement of goods and services, capital, trade facilitation, harmonization of customs and tax rules, transportation, peace and security.

Dr Apraku noted that while it was true that the regional economic communities had made significant contributions, the multiple memberships tended to absorb the much-needed human resources and over-stretched institutional capacity.

He noted that this must change since a review of the regional economic communities revealed that they suffered from inadequate financial, material and manpower resources to enable them to drive their respective integration agendas. He said inter-trade between regional economic blocs were still weak, estimated at only 10 per cent.

He called for a radical change indicating that, "any unnecessary duplication of functions could only lead to more inefficiencies and less competitiveness . Dr Apraku explained that it was for this that the World Bank and other development partners usually found it difficult to find or support projects that were being concurrently executed by two or three different bodies or institutions.

Dr Maxwell Mkwezalamba, Commissioner for Economic Affairs of the AU, said he was pleased about the effort by NEPAD to rationalize the building blocs, which were the pillars of integration on the Continent. He referred to the efforts of the erstwhile OAU to bring these economic blocs together, but to no avail adding; "it is my fervent hope that this meeting would examine the practical and operational modalities for coordinating and harmonizing the activities and programmes of the regional economic communities in order to avert overlaps, conflict of power and wastage of efforts and resources.

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