By Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO, NEPAD Agency
Today’s international climate is, in large part, marked by the inward orientation of some of the world’ biggest economies as they raise political and economic walls.
As we seek to find African solutions to African problems, on the other hand, we need to think across national boundaries. If we are to solve our most pressing challenges relating to: food security, talent production, infrastructure and political stability, then a paradigm shift is called. It is greater regional integration that will allow us to ride the Fourth Industrial Revolution successfully and build stronger, fairer, more prosperous societies.
Food security in the challenging context of climate change is a pressing issue. We cannot plan for sustainable economic development and long-term prosperity without establishing food security for millions of people facing hunger in Africa. Can Africa get ahead of climate change impacts on food security? I believe it can. Climate change and the impact on food production is not restricted by man-imposed national borders. Countries within the same regions share both ecosystems and natural resources. It, therefore, makes sense for us to build resilience to adverse weather effects through regional collaboration. We can thus ensure that limited resources are prioritized and targeted towards the most effective solutions.
The AU recognises that regional governance institutions need to be strengthened for the purposes of more integrated responses to Africa’s development challenges. Our policy makers should be encouraged to think in terms of a continental industrialisation plan, identifying viable future industries which different African countries specialise in. This would mean that the country-level industrial plan of each African country would be integrated within the regional and continental plan. Smart regional integration will allow us to play to ours strengths by clustering countries around what they specialize. Cross-border coordination will reduce overall adaptation costs, bring economy of scale while addressing our infrastructure needs more effectively.
Here are two of the regional integration models that are making the difference.
Sub-Saharan Africa, the Eastern and Southern Africa region are struggling to find the skilled labour required for the further growth of the region. Current education and training at the tertiary level provide poor standards in subject matters not immediately relevant to the challenges that the region faces. In this context, the World Bank’s project, Africa Centers of Excellence (ACE), adopts a regional approach in areas of science and technology higher education. ACE strengthens selected existing African higher education institutions to produce world-class training to address priority economic sectors. The ACE II is expected to enroll more than 3,500 graduate students in their specialized areas within 5 years (http://www.ace2.iucea.org).
The political element to regional integration cannot be dismissed. Strengthening trust among leaders and populations and ensuring political stability across African nations are also keys to effective collaboration. We have just seen a common approach to peace and security at play through the military intervention of ECOWAS in Gambia on the 19th of January. ECOWAS demonstrated that, in crisis situations, stability will be made to prevail by regional forces.