Africa: Stronger cross-border ties key to social and economic progress
Istanbul, 10 May 2011—Integrated regional investments in roads and power, coupled with pro-poor policy, could lead to an accumulated 10 percent increase in the continent’s standard of living between 2012 and 2020, says a new report released today at the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Istanbul, Turkey.
Region-wide linkages could positively impact national-level income growth and poverty reduction by improving access to public services and promoting sound environmentally sustainable policies, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, Regional Integration and Human Development: a pathway for Africa.
“The potential of regional integration to deliver higher economic growth is now widely appreciated,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. “Ambitious and well-designed integration agendas can advance both inclusive growth and human development —enabling African LDCs to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.”
However, the achievement of greater integration can only become reality if supported by strong political will and committed leadership in African countries, according to the report.
While half of Africa’s population, amounting to half a billion, live in the continent’s 33 LDCs, the countries share less than one quarter of Africa’s total gross domestic product (GDP). In addition, 12 of Africa’s LDCs lack direct domestic access to a seaport, making international trade difficult.
Investing in infrastructure and lowering transportation costs is particularly critical in Africa given the large distances that may be involved in delivering produce to markets.
Facilitating the movement of people and managing this in a way that protects migrants and respects human rights can also contribute to increased incomes and remittances, and empowerment.
While there are important integration initiatives already underway, the report states that countries could also gain by harmonizing regulations and standards, devising common approaches to macroeconomic policy and managing shared natural resources.
The report notes that closer regional ties could bring LDCs new forms of industrial and trade policy and could pave the way for a greater mix in trading sectors where the majority of LDCs currently rely on agricultural commodities, such as cotton, coffee, and on minerals.
UNDP works with LDCs to achieve sustainable human development focused on inclusive growth, reducing poverty and creating jobs.
In Africa, UNDP has been working with regional economic communities to identify gaps and strengths as a first step towards building institutions and human resources to effectively support regional integration.
In countries such as Central African Republic, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania, UNDP has provided technical assistance for the integration of domestic and regional trade priorities into national development plans and poverty reduction strategies.
The report is available at: http://www.undp.org/poverty/library.shtml
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