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JUNE 2015: Communities at the Crossroad: Exploring New Models for Civil Society
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6/11/2015 to 6/13/2015
When: 6/11/2015

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Communities at the Crossroad: Exploring New Models for Civil Society Engagement for Regional Integration in Africa

An Institute for Regional Integration and Development (IRID) Policy Conference
11
13 June, 2015

Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya

Catholic University of Eastern Africa’s The Institute for Regional Integration and Development (www.cuea.edu/irid/) will host a conference to explore new strategies civil society has developed to break many of the political, economic, and social logjams frustrating regional integration across Africa. Using experiences and practices in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond, attendees will learn of innovative approaches by both secular and faith-based organisation who overcame many roadblocks to regional integration. In doing so, these organisations also leveraged local resources, reduced foreign dependency, and engaged national interests to cultivate broad private sector support for greater market integration. The conference will examine how CSOs and FBOs not just lobbied governments but also shared responsibility for policy outcomes and actions and built more balanced, productive relationships with the public and private sectors and, thereby, achieved productive collaboration among national interests and developed apolitical pan-national capacities to manage transparent regional governance.

Background:

As it celebrates its fifteenth anniversary, the East African Community finds itself at a crossroads familiar to all African economic communities. While the EAC has witnessed some success in moving toward its stated goal of accelerated, harmonious and balanced development and sustained equitably shared economic expansion through the creation of regional institutions and bodies, success on the ground, however, has proved more elusive.

·      Despite first a customs union in 2005 and then a common market in 2010, intra-member trade has grown no faster than member exports to the rest of the world, suggesting that recent increases in intra-regional trade might be due more to globalisation than to EAC policies.

·      Although the EAC aspires for “a greater harmonisation of macroeconomic and sectorial policies,” the region has witnessed increases in regulatory and structural disparities. In 2013, the World Bank’s Doing Business Index noted that “a hypothetical EAC economy adopting the best practices among its partner states would stand 26th in the global Doing Business ranking.”  Instead, they posted an average ranking of 110th as each member state has promoted policies to differentiate rather than coalesce.

·      The EAC recognises that, “the prevalence of NTBs, inadequate infrastructure; supply side constraints; [and] a mismatch in the implementation of trade facilitation instruments have slowed achievement of the benefits of the Customs Union.”  In fact, the distances from global best practices among EAC members have eroded in several areas vital to regional integration. Collectively, the five member states lost ground to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa in easing cross-border trade restraints since creating the Common Market.

With similar results across the continent, it is difficult to blame the East African Community or its member governments alone for this lack of progress.  It is more likely that these outcomes are evidence of the limits of regional integration driven by political organisations alone.  The EAC set as one of its current core strategic objectives to “identify more effective mechanisms to ensure timeliness and sustainability in programme/project implementation [and] to explore innovative ways of tapping non-conventional resources to support regional development” and increased “private sector, CSOs, and citizenry involvement as key strategic drivers that will underpin the regional integration agenda.”  This conference will explore how civil society should not confront but join with the EAC to create the tools needed to advance more effective regional integration processes and the outcomes.

About the Institute for Regional Integration and Development: 

The Institute for Regional Integration and Development (IRID) is a unique specialised post-graduate university institute for research and training in regional integration. Formed in 2011 with the support of the East African Community, IRID brings together academics, researchers and practitioners to provide conceptual, policy and practical instruction of the highest standard on regional integration and global governance in order to build capacity for all of Africa’s regional communities.

IRID aspires to be the premiere thought-leader in African Integration and the most emblematic centre for regional integration and development, producing graduates with lifelong enthusiasm for African integration. IRID is being developed to the breeding ground for the public and non-profit leaders of Africa’s regional communities.

To learn more about IRID and its upcoming conference, call +254 20 889 1601-6, email us at irid@cuea.edu or visit our website, www.cuea.edu/irid/.

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