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About AEC 2018

Background

The AEC 2018 responds to four takeaways from the 2013 conference and the challenges that continue to undermine progress on Africa’s integration.  The first is that Africa’s integration is no longer a choice.  The continent must integrate to consolidate past gains and maximize the benefit of globalization with a view to becoming a major player in the global arena as envisioned by Agenda 2063.  However, there a risks arising from a heightened focus on economic integration with less attention to social, cultural and political integration. In addition, there are overlapping memberships in RECs whose policy instruments are not harmonized. Furthermore, there is weak enforcement of existing treaties and Non-Tariff Barriers that continue to hinder free movement of goods, services and persons across borders.

The second takeaway is that whereas there is tangible progress, it is too slow due in part to differing country interests, ineffective and unresponsive institutions. An innovative approach that takes countries’ interests into account without being held hostage by them is required.

The third dimension is the preponderance of bilateral and multilateral agreements with the rest of the world that are not in harmony with regional and continental integration objectives.  Under the bilateral/multilateral agreements African countries have the tendency to provide better offers than those exchanged and shared amongst themselves.  African countries therefore are confronted by a challenge to ensure that existing and future trade and investments arrangements are in congruence with regional and continental integration.

The final takeaway was that integration ought to be people-centred with stronger partnerships with citizens, private sector players and civil society institutions to facilitate faster progress and sustainable outcomes. Trust in leadership and institutions will be a critical enabler for accelerated integration to happen. However, trust depends on effectiveness of institutions and leadership to deliver on set objectives of integration and their ability to use integration to drive development outcomes across the continent.

The  convergence of the African Union Agenda 2063, United Nations Agenda 2030 and the Bank’s High 5s visions makes it imperative for the three institutions – AUC, UN and the AfDB to strengthen their working and collaborative relationship in order to deliver on Africa’s integration and inclusive development.  These agendas re-affirm the centrality of regional and continental integration. The Agenda 2063 envisions an integrated Africa that is united with a world class infrastructure that criss-crosses the continent - rail, road, water and air transport - that will facilitate intra-Africa trade as well as improved connectivity. It also envisions an African citizenship with rights and responsibilities, a common passport, an anthem and a flag and a politically united Africa. The 2030 Agenda commits to eradicating poverty in all its forms through 17 goals and 169 targets. Regional and continental integration is a catalyst to make tangible progress in realizing all the 17 goals. “Integrate Africa” is one of the AfDB High 5s, which is expected to help facilitate the achievement of ‘light up and power’, ‘feed’, ‘industrialize’ and ‘improve quality of life of Africans’.

Regional and continental integration remains a valuable strategy to help utilize Africa’s greatest asset optimally – the youth.  Integration of people, trade, finance, infrastructure, to mention a few remains a potent tool to create the future today. Africa is now home to 1.3 billion people, and this will reach 2.5 billion in 2050. For integration to be well accepted, it must be all embracive and render tangible benefits to all Africans. In this regard, integration must be able to catalyse goals and aspirations of Africans, enabling them to build better lives.

The conference’s value addition, in the wake of the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area for Africa, will be to advocate for and provide clear policy guidance based on research and best practices for a stronger partnership for faster integration in all its dimensions.

 

Objectives

The African Economic Conference is now the leading forum for the discussion of Africa’s issues of the day. The specific objectives of the African Economic Conference are to:​

  • Promote knowledge management as an important driver of policy dialogue, good policy planning and implementation;

  • Foster dialogue that promotes the exchange of ideas and innovative thinking among researchers, development practitioners and policymakers;

  • Encourage and enhance research on economic and policy issues related to the development of African economies by promoting evidence-based policymaking;​​

  • Provide an opportunity for young African researchers, Africans in the Diaspora, and organizations to share knowledge with policymakers; and

  • Serve as a platform for researchers, policymakers and private sector operators to meet and have consensus on regional and continental integration as an instrument to accelerate Africa’s inclusive and sustainable development.

 

Format

The Conference, being jointly organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will be the thirteenth edition of the AEC Series. It is specifically aimed at providing a platform to advocate for a stronger partnership for faster continental integration in all its dimensions.

To achieve this, the Conference will be built on 4 pillars with 12 strategic actions. Each pillar will constitute a Plenary Session. The 12 strategic actions will constitute 12 parallel sessions. Note that the call for papers will focus very much on solutions to make integration a reality. The 4 pillars and 12 agenda actions are presented in Table 1:

The African Economic Conference 2018 will offer a unique avenue for researchers, policymakers and development practitioners to debate and build knowledge on solutions for continental integration. The debates would focus on using four pillars to propel innovative solutions to impediments of Africa’s regional and continental integration.

As is the tradition, all the papers will be professionally and blindly peer reviewed by the co-organizing institutions and those accepted for presentation shall be original quality work.

A distinguished panel will assess the papers presented and award a prize to the author whose paper has been deemed as the best Conference paper. The award always goes to young researchers. The winner will be announced at the closing ceremony.