African Development Bank calls for Maghreb integration


A recent report by the African Development Bank (AfDB) asserted that Maghreb integration would help achieve the economic and social development goals of the countries in the region, particularly Tunisia.

The report, published Wednesday (September 5th), under the title “Tunisia, Economic and Social Challenges after the Revolution”, confirmed that there is “great potential for development of regional trade between the countries of the Maghreb, who are natural partners of Tunisia, especially as prospects for expansion of Tunisian exports in these markets are important”.

A unified Maghreb trade area would elevate the volume of economic exchange, not only between Tunisia and the Maghreb countries, but also among all countries of the Maghreb, according to economist Abdeljelil Badri.

“The Maghreb region is among the regional areas that could benefit most from the process of integration among [its countries] because of the advantages and potential it offers and in which it abounds, the most important of which is of course oil,” Badri said. “Further, the emergence of a Maghreb economic group has become an urgent necessity in the current period in order to face the deteriorating economic situation experienced by the international community.”

He stressed that Maghreb trade openness would bring the five countries billions of dollars in additional profits, provide citizens with jobs and become an important attraction for investments, thus increasing rates of economic growth and social development.

The Maghreb is among the least integrated regions in the world, according to AfDB economic expert Catherine Baumont-Keita, who said that the cost of this region’s economic divergence is between 2 and 3 per cent of gross domestic product.

The Maghreb has one of the lowest rates of intra-regional trade in the world compared to other economic groups, not exceeding 3 per cent.

Conversely, intra-regional trade is at 60 per cent in the European Union, 22 per cent among countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and 20 per cent within the “South American Common Market known as Mercosur.

Trade exchange between Tunisia and countries of the Maghreb Union rose to $730.6 million during the first five months of this year, according to a report issued by the Ministry of Commerce last July.

Libya ranked first as a destination for Tunisian exports, accounting for $411 million worth, followed by Algeria at $207 million.

2011-06-03

However, Tunisia faces a number of economic challenges, according to the AfDB report. To overcome this, the bank called for taking advantage of Tunisia’s current transition phase to undertake reforms that will contribute to establishing a favourable climate for private initiative and business.

In this context, it called on the Tunisian government to develop a culture of entrepreneurship and promote initiative in new activities.

“The adoption of incentive measures for the benefit of new institutional investors will make Tunisia more attractive for foreign direct investments focused on renewal,” the AfDB report said.

It also recommended liberalisation, including in information and communication technology, transport, logistics, distribution and tourism development. The report also pointed to a potential for high value-added profitability if tourism products were improved, including a potential open skies agreement with the European Union to improve air transport.

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