The Benefits of Closer Regional Integration in Africa
Regional integration in the SADC, and Africa as a whole, is no longer an option- it is a necessity. Things move fast in today’s times of advanced technology, and unless Africa kicks it up a gear, we are sure to be left lagging far behind the rest of the world. To keep up with world leaders in industry and commerce, like the USA and China, Africa must unite.
Cutting Through the Red Tape
A common currency and free movement of goods are key drivers in regional integration. By dropping the barriers when it comes to trade, Africa can avoid the unnecessary delays caused by red tape. By diminishing the frustration involved with border crossings, more industries will be encouraged to participate in trans-regional interactions.
Increased trade means increased employment, which in turns helps to alleviate poverty and spreads goodwill throughout member states. Likewise, commodities such as energy and natural resources can be shared when regional integration is established.
The benefits for tourism are infinite. In pooling their marketing efforts and allowing tourists easy access across borders, all member states of the SADC can reap enormous benefits from this lucrative industry. Greater exposure to international people means greater appreciation for the potential that lies dormant in Africa, and increased interest from foreign investors.
To facilitate these grandiose ideas of free transfer between borders, there needs to be sufficient infrastructure in place to accommodate it. It is imperative that governments set aside funding for these advancements.
Information is Power
Member countries can benefit from modernization of their systems by sharing technological advances and innovation, thus developing their skills and enhancing production systems. In pooling the efforts of the industrious and inventive minds of the African people, there is no limit to the benefits that regional integration can have for all involved.
Centralized financial systems will facilitate free movement of capital and distribution of profits.
In this way greater amalgamation can contribute to internal prosperity and harmony as well as improved relations between transacting nations. In fact, improving the lot of its citizens should be the most important driver in favor of greater regional integration for any nation.
Making Progress Not War
Countries with common business interests are less likely to engage in hostile behavior towards one another. Greater regional integration thus contributes to a peaceful co-existence between participating states. It is an important means of discouraging violent conflicts between nations. Instead, participating states must engage in constructive discussions to resolve their differences.
Never in the history of Earth has transparent communication with regard to a mutual goal been a bad thing. By creating mutual political institutions with the interests of all participants at heart, issues can be handled without resorting to violent upheaval.
These shared responsibilities require trust and mutual respect, with both of these aspects being conducive to good neighborly behavior and progress.
Naturally, there will be some cultural differences between states that participate in these integrative initiatives.
Instead of being a source of conflict, this cultural diversity brings interest and education to the table. Looking at matters from a different viewpoint can often reveal innovative solutions to long-standing stumbling blocks. Greater diversity can bring the same benefits to politics as it does to business and even daily life.
In the same vein, a standardized education system across regions could level the playing field for scholars as well as job seekers. That is, if the standards were set to comply with international levels of learning and expertise. By including diversity in education, regional integration clears the way for a unified sense of African identity.
Stumbling Blocks to Integration
A potential stumbling block is the existing regional organizations. Institutions like COMESA and the Manu River Union would be superseded by a more unifying regional whole. Member countries of these existing sub-regional organizations may be reluctant to change what is working for them at the moment.
The vast differences in political leadership styles throughout southern Africa must be set aside if regional integration is to succeed. What works for one country does not necessarily work for all and participants should be able to set their leadership styles aside in the interests of cooperation.
In this way, a means to implement integration outside of the political arena is key. There is work to be done by businesses and government if regional integration in Africa is ever to evolve beyond the drawing board, and the time has come to start.