VICTORIA, March 19, 2013 – Efforts to accelerate regional integration in eastern Africa received a significant boost at a ministerial meeting held in Victoria, Seychelles where Ministers and representatives from Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles and Zambia committed themselves to removing trade barriers that impede economic growth, curb job creation and prevent poverty reduction targets from being achieved.
“We need to implement reforms that will streamline trade regulation and processes, improve business climate and financial management, enhance trade in services, promote value addition in the agricultural sector and eliminate of non-tariff barriers,” said Hon. Pierre Laporte, Minister of Finance of the Republic of Seychelles at the opening ceremony. In prepared remarks, he emphasized the need for greater trade and investment, urging participants to “Strengthen economic linkages and facilitate the exchange in goods and services among our economies.”
The meeting, hosted by the Republic of Seychelles, is part of a new push of the Accelerated Program for Economic Integration (APEI) to speed up economic integration by improving the business regulatory environment, eliminate trade barriers and better collaborate through peer to peer leaning and knowledge sharing.
“What’s exciting about the APEI initiative is that we are seeing five countries voluntarily coming together, learning from each other and challenging some of the ways in which they have handled regional integration and trade in the past,” said Colin Bruce, World Bank Director of Strategy and Operations in the Africa Region.
The case for deepening regional trade integration in goods and services was recently made in a new World Bank study, “De-fragmenting Africa” which argued that Africa is not achieving its potential in regional trade, urging a reform agenda that covers goods and services that puts in place appropriate regulations for integrated markets and builds the capacity of institutions that are essential for trade across borders.
“The landmark APEI meeting in Seychelles reflects the strong commitment and ownership of the process through which stronger regional integration can be achieved,” said Haleh Bridi, World Bank Country Director for Seychelles. “We are delighted to play a supportive role so that greater trade can deliver positive and lasting development outcomes.”
In terms of next steps, the Ministers are planning to discuss the trade and regional integration agenda during the Spring Meetings in April 2013.