On 29 February 2016 the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) held a two day workshop under the title “Regional Integration for Africa’s Structural Transformation” in Casablanca. The workshop was attended by representatives of North African states, including Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and Mauritania, in addition to several private companies and concerned experts. The Egyptian side was represented by each of Mrs. Lamia Ahmed, a first programs expert in charge of the AfDB file in the International Finance Sector of the Ministry of International Cooperation (MOIC) and Mr. Ismail Youssef, the General Director of Parliamentary Sessions of the Minister’s Sector at the Ministry of Planning, Follow Up and Administrative Reform.
At the beginning, AfDB’s Regional Director for North Africa Mr. Jacob Kolster stated that the purpose of the workshop was to start preparing a comprehensive strategy for North Africa, which was currently being formulated by AfDB. He requested that each country in the region propose significant priority projects that would help achieve regional integration among the six North African states.
The workshop was divided into 6 sessions tackling basic pillars for realizing such integration under the titles “Manufacture and Value Chains in North Africa”, “Transportation and Logistics in North Africa”, “Towards Better Integration in the Energy Sector”, “Financial Systems in North Africa: Towards Financial Integration”, “Agriculture and Food Security in North Africa” and “Presentation of the Regional Integration Support Strategy to AfDB”.
Discussions addressed relevant sectors and opportunities for realizing regional integration in these sectors, in addition to tackling obstacles impeding such aspired integration.
Within this context, MOIC’s representative presented the priorities of the Egyptian government’s program, including enhancing dialogue and cooperation, and encouraging investments and trade exchange among African states. Reference was made to the initiatives launched by the Egyptian President in this regard, such as the North Africa renewable energy initiative. An overview was also given on some vital projects to be implemented in Egypt which would have regional impact and dimension, such as the Suez axis development project, the navigation line between Lake Victoria and the Mediterranean Sea, the 1.5 million feddans project, East Port Said development project, maritime and river transport development projects, railway and cargo transport development projects, and new & renewable energy projects, such as wind farms and solar plants. MOIC also addressed Egypt’s sustainable development strategy until 2030 and its main pillars.
It is worth noting that AfDB intends to present the North Africa Regional Integration Strategy to its Board of Directors during the third quarter of 2016, which shall include a lending program for the period 2016- 2020 worth USD 500 million (which may be increased in cases of large projects that may contribute to achieving regional integration), in addition to the possibility of collaborating with other development partners to mobilize funds.
At the closing session, the following recommendations were issued:
1- Regional cooperation was the best means to overcome certain challenges facing the countries.
2- Most countries with fast growth rates have merged regional value chains into global value chains, such as Asian countries, based on which regional integration has become an integral part of global integration.
3- Regional integration is a means of increasing added value for the region and increasing job opportunities through international trade and investment.
4- If North Africa achieves the fastest growth rates and realizes global integration, this would form as a motivator for the development of south the desert in Africa, and will form an economic bridge between that region and the rest of the world.
5- Should regional integration in North Africa, leading to global integration, take place, the North African region and south the desert would become a zone that enjoys a good credit ranking and one which attracts investments.