The Case of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)

Across the globe, integration has become an essential feature of today’s societies, economies and nations. Worldwide thinking nowadays is about regional, sectoral, economic and social integration where wide range of benefits could be reaped if favourable conditions exist to make it efficient, effective and fruitful integration.

In Africa, integration was a dream that gave hope to the creation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. Since then, many institutions were established across the continent to encourage and strengthen the process of integration including among others, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). It is one of the regional integration institutions established in 1996 superseding the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) which was founded in 1986. Since its establishment, the mandate and the priority programmes were gradually geared towards making sense of regional integration and building strong cooperation, integration and addressing political, and socioeconomic challenges of the region.

As a regional economic community, the road to integration in IGAD region is actually a set of interventions including establishment of a free trade area, macroeconomic convergence, industrial development, and investment promotion, infrastructure development, information technology, tourism development, and the development of energy, agriculture, environment and natural resources. The achievements of IGAD with regard to the process of integration includes institutional building, in addition to some achievements in the social, political, economic, and environmental dimensions of integration. Strengthening institutional set up, IGAD has established many programmes and centres of excellences to enhance integration in different thematic areas. These include the Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (IGAD CEWARN), the Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (IGAD CPAC), the Centre for Pastoral Areas and Livestock Development (IGAD CPALD), the Centre of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (IGAD CEPCVE), the Sheikh Technical Veterinary School (IGAD STVS), the Institute for Diplomatic Studies (IGAD FSI) and other centres and programmes. All of these centres and programmes are contributing in the solution of many challenges facing integration in the region and thus contributing to the integration process at continental level. Politically, and on the issues of regional peace, stability and security, IGAD has emerged as a critical player and it has established a division responsible for peace and security to fulfil this mandate and contribute positively into the regional, and hence the continental, integration.

IGAD has also realised the importance of infrastructure development in creation of interconnectivity necessary for cross-border regional integration. IGAD now has in place a strategic infrastructure framework with a set of action plans up till 2050 covering energy, transport, ICT and water sub-sectors. Globally and in our continent currently, there is an increasing demand for resources to be invested in linking communities, economies and countries. In nowadays’ economies, connectivity has become a defining feature; so infrastructure is a basic factor in creating social, economic and political interactions. Ultimately, connectivity is about increasing interactions, productivity, competition, and market opportunities. Therefore, IGAD in acknowledgement of the value of connectivity is striving to make infrastructure works for regional integration through mobilisation of resources for investment, and investing in connectivity for economic integration. Promotion of interconnectivity through investment in energy, transport, digital technology and building of roads, railways and pipelines will go a long way in improving the process of social, economic and political integration.

On the social dimension of integration, IGAD is using education, health and migration as tools for regional integration. Despite the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, IGAD had achieved a lot in the social integration agenda, including physical support and taking IGAD to cross-border communities, endorsement of the IGAD Protocols on Free Movement of Persons and Transhumance, and bringing migration at the forefront of the policy debates. Towards the Free Movement of Persons and Transhumance Initiative will contribute to facilitation of movement of persons and improve regular labour migration and mobility in the region in order to enhance regional economic integration, stability and development. The free movement regime across borders is actually one of the critical elements in the integration agenda due to prospective multiple gains, including trade benefits, development of skills, knowledge through migration of ideas, creation of jobs and investments among others. In terms of physical support to cross-border communities, examples include provision of farm equipment to agro-pastoral communities along the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia as well as personal protective equipment and ambulances to selected cross-border locations.

On the other hand, trade and market integration is another angle of the process of integration which in fact used to happen informally and bilaterally. But there is need for a formalised process in this matter for better achievements and tangible results. When trade flows are faster and more cost effective, business and consumers in the region benefit as it creates employment, industrial linkages, economic diversification and structural transformation. Although this is lagging behind, IGAD strives to achieve more results based on the planned infrastructure connectivity, engagement in developing and adopting protocols on movement of capital, goods and services, harmonisation of trade policies, customs procedures and harmonisation of standards to boost trade in the region. IGAD is committed to facilitate and coordinate removal of physical and non-physical barriers to trade and fostering market integration. To promote private sector led integration, IGAD has established the IGAD Business Forum which is now contributing to increased cross-border trading and investments. It is through this IGAD Business Forum and the involvement of the public sector entities that issues of trade policy harmonisation, facilitation and removal of barriers to trade will be easier and constitute meaningful true elements of integration. With regard to trade in services, IGAD is among the few regional economic communities in Africa in having a sustainable framework for tourism development.

On the side of productive elements of integration, IGAD originally has achieved considerable results in enhancing productive resources, raising of entrepreneurial capacities and contributing to creation of linkages to promote regional integration through the wealth of human, natural, physical and other productive resources existing in the region. Therefore, there is vital logic to include in the assessment of integration the elements of productive capacity in order to include communities, resources and peoples’ livelihoods in the meaning and measurement of integration. In the region, natural resources of livestock, crops, lands, rivers, forests, and investments around them are very crucial in boosting integration agenda at the regional level. The software part of all these resources, which are the governance and enabling policies and frameworks of these resources, are however, very relevant to any indicators in monitoring sustainable use of these resources. Common and harmonised policies together with expanded opportunities for cooperation will allow the countries and their people to reap the benefits of regional integration. This again justifies that sectoral integration is key pillar in improved integration process. When we will have infrastructure connectivity in place, development of regional value chains along the line of enhanced productive capacity will be a unique opportunity for sustainable socioeconomic development.

Peace, security and political stability are prerequisites for achieving sustainable development. History and evidence from research tells us that cooperation and integration have always been beneficial for the reduction of armed and non-armed conflicts, as well for the maintenance of stability across the globe. IGAD region since is well known to conflicts and instability, peace and conflict management and prevention could be vital elements in achieving good steps in regional integration. IGAD has in place a formal institutional and political framework that had helped and is helping in creation of enabled peace for continual cooperation and integration.

As we know, the word integrate means to form, coordinate or blend into a functioning or unified whole or to incorporate to a larger unit, all of which meaning to unite with something else. All in all, regional integration is a multi-dimensional process that can take the form of coordination, cooperation, convergence, and deep integration initiatives. And in terms of scope, it covers not only economic and trade issues as sometimes perceived, but it also covers social, political, cultural and environmental issues. This means that all actors and stakeholders, nearly everyone, are very important in making this process a reality, particularly under the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under such situation, the humanity is striving to survive and there is an urgent need for cooperation, solidarity and meaningful integration.

Osman Mohammed Babikir (PhD)
Director, Economic Cooperation & Regional Integration Division
September 9, 2021