Maureen Were on promoting regional trade for faster job creation

Leveraging new opportunities for regional integration in Eastern Africa

The 23rd Conference of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts for Eastern Africa, organized by United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), took place 5-7 November in Asmara, Eritrea. The theme of the conference was 'Leveraging New Opportunities for Regional Integration in Eastern Africa'.

As part of the programme Maureen Were, UNU-WIDER Researcher Fellow, gave a presentation on  'Promoting regional trade for faster job creation'.

Summary of the presentation

Africa’s population is projected to double to 2.5 billion in 2050, consisting of a rapidly growing labour force. Although Eastern Africa is the fastest growing region in Africa, growth has not translated to significant job creation.

Regional trade provides a venue for job creation, and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could be an important vehicle for revamping investment and promoting industrialization in Africa.

However, there are challenges, which include increased competition from cheap imports, particularly from China, limited intra-trade, poor interconnectivity across Africa, protectionist regulatory policies, and countries' multiple memberships in different regional groupings.

Deliberate and coherent policy measures are needed to maximize job creation potential. African countries must learn and commit to trade with each other in an atmosphere devoid of mistrust and supported by strong political will.

Regional integration is one of the avenues for addressing Africa's fragmented markets and creating a niche in the global market. Aligning the sub-regional groups with AfCFTA and compliance with agreed-upon commitments are bound to enhance integration.

Additionally, investments in labour-intensive sectors, in global value chains, in an enabling environment for the private sector, in infrastructure, in easy movement of citizens across Africa, and in skills upgrading are important steps and opportunities for maximizing job creation.