By Emma Kakololo
Economic integration – the idea that prosperity rests in part on institutions and markets that are shared across national borders – is much more than a technical economic construct, South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel told guests at a University of Namibia gala dinner in Windhoek recently.
Last year, world trade totalled U$12,7 trillion, of which Africa’s portion was a skimpy US$300 billion or just 2,3 percent. Namibia’s trade with the world was somewhere around 0.02 percent.
Economic integration, he said, is not just about the industrial and trade ties that bind countries together, but goes to the heart of what it means to be human, what it means to confront loneliness and despair, what it means to build a future that is better than the past.
“We turn to our authentic capacity to create, to endure, to be greater than our suffering – we turn to our authenticity as a source of inspiration in overcoming our domestic and regional challenges, and the added complexities brought on by globalization,” said Manuel.
Therefore, he said, it was up to the continent to develop a response that addresses the needs and interests, of individual countries, as a region, and as Africans.
“We have to be able to connect the dots between our domestic agendas, the regional integration programme and events unfolding in China, Europe, the Americas and India,” he said.
“In the same way we are required to forge the linkages between the upswing in commodity prices and our policy choices and the way we govern our countries. It is then that we start to recognise that a compelling opportunity exists – now- to turn the tide on poverty and all manner of human suffering.”
He said the continent stood a good chance to make a difference because of the states’ choice of better policies, resources and passion for greater integration of their economies.
“Policy choices and good governance matter.
“But the institutions we construct today, and the investment choices we make, will outlive us. Future generations will build on these foundations – they may have to correct our mistakes, they will no doubt create things beyond our present imagining, but we need to have the courage and vision to break the barriers that hold back progress today,” he told academics and dignitaries.
“Africans have been confronted with choices and challenges before …. Economic systems and trade which bring prosperity to Africa’s people are not new or foreign concepts,” he said.
He said whether these opportunities turn out to be a blessing or a curse depends on us (the Africans).