The African Development Bank (AfDB) on Friday launched a regional Integration Strategy for Southern Africa (Risp) in Lilongwe to support regional integration efforts for southern African countries such as Malawi.
The strategy paper, said to be the bankâ€™s roadmap to Southern Africaâ€™s regional integration efforts, covers the period between 2011 and 2015.
AfDB country representative for Malawi, Andrew Mwaba, said the strategy fits within the bankâ€™s longstanding goal and reflects the regional and country needs identified through extensive stakeholder consultation.
â€œThe importance of Africaâ€™s integration cannot be overemphasized. Africaâ€™s leaders have long recognised the importance of economic integration as a remedy for the continentâ€™s fragmentation,â€ he said.
Mwaba noted that through successive agreements, African governments have committed themselves to pursue greater integration, but lamented that such commitments have not always been easy to implement.
Consequently, he said opportunities of regional integration on the continent have not been fully exploited.
Mwaba cited Africaâ€™s lack of adequate hard infrastructure, poor institutional and human capacity and limited access to finance as some major obstacles to African integration.
â€œThere is need for deliberate interventions and concerted efforts in tackling challenges to enhance Africaâ€™s integration agenda,â€ said Mwaba.
He said the new strategy paper has defined the strategic direction of the bankâ€™s focus for integration within southern Africa.
Mwaba said the paper also act as the bankâ€™s instrument for analytical framework and selection for regional operations and regional public goods.
On his part, Minister of Industry and Trade John Bande said the AfDB regional integration paper will help Malawi and other countries to increase market access opportunities for the private sector.
â€œApart from enhancing market access opportunities, the regional integration agenda also provides countries with opportunity to cooperate with others in the area of transport, energy and infrastructure development as these provide a window for mitigation of some of the major constraints faced by landlocked countries such as Malawi,â€ he said.
The strategy paper covers 12: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.