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Concept Note on GENDER/Regional Integration Roundtable

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 A. INTRODUCTION

The gender unit of TWN-Africa is hosting a round-table on gender and regional economic integration in Africa on 18-19 November, 2010, in Accra, Ghana.  The meeting will bring together scholars, feminist economists and gender experts, as well as policy-makers, to discuss issues of gender equity and Africa’s economic integration.

B. BACKGROUND

Regional economic integration in Africa has been a long-standing goal in discussions about economic development in Africa. The on-going global financial and economic crisis has brought renewed attention to the role that regional integration could have played in Africa’s ability to withstand global shocks. However there are as many different notions of economic integration as there are protagonists.  These vary from at one extreme, the open regionalism promoted within neo-liberal ideology which sees regional integration as a means for the “smoother and gradual integration” of Africa into the global economy; and at the other extreme, the contrasting notion of regional integration as the means through which Africa can disengage from globalisation. In between these, are notions of regional integration which aim to enable Africa engage with the global economy on its own terms.

At the basis of all the different conceptions are contestations about the nature of Africa’s economic challenges and the specific issues that need to be addressed for Africa’s development. They also have implications for the way in which questions of gender equity are addressed.

The round-table seeks to explore two issues as central to any discussion of regional economic integration in Africa in contemporary times: namely (a) structural economic transformation and (b) equity, in particular gender equity.  Focusing on the questions of the movements of factors of production that routinely form the basis and/or content  of discussions of regional economic integration, the round-table will explore approaches to integration that best achieve, simultaneously, the twin-goals  of structural change of Africa’s economies, as well as equity, as the necessary foundations for sustainable economic development in Africa

In this perspective, issues of political processes, including institutions and participation in decision-making, while important will not be central to discussions at this round-table.  Instead, the focus will be on the substance of economic integration, in the hope that this will provide the agenda around which the issues of politics, process and participation in decision-making can be subsequently organised.

Among the substantive issues that will be looked at are various ingredients of economic integration as contained in the variety of formulas available on the continent ranging  from the push to full economic union as embodied in groupings such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to the proposed integration of economic sectors as represented by the Community of Sahel-Saharan states; the proposals on facilitating the easing of barriers, the movement of capital and people; and policies that offer a particular incentives or challenges to integration efforts.

C. TOPICS/PAPERS

The meeting will be organised over two days around a set of papers.

The following range of issues will be addressed: theories/paradigms of regional integration, existing practices and policy as carried out and/or promoted by key actors within the African regional integration processes, the external/global environment and its influence on regional integration, as well the adequacy or otherwise of these from the perspectives of structural economic change and gender equity. Topics will include

a) Conceptual issues in regional integration:

(i)Contested paradigms of economic integration, structural transformation and equity

(ii) Issues of gender equity and indicators of gender-sensitive regional economic integration

b) Policy and practice

(i) The features of regional integration within the Regional Economic Communities in Africa.  Papers will combine exploration of:

(a) the features of regional integration which are common to the RECs, and

(b) those features which are peculiar to the RECs and arise from the origins and driving motives for their formation

(The topics suggested below aim to explore those features common to all RECs, but which are most glaringly operative in one REC)

Thus:

1. ECOWAS:--Regional integration, multiplicity of regional groupings and coherence:  ECOWAS v UEMOA:

2. SADC: Regional integration and dynamics of a regional hegemon

3. COMESA …Common Market versus Common Economy?

4. Maghreb: regional integration from outside…A Region defined by FTAs with Europe and America, in the absence of a grouping for the region.

ii) Policy formulated by:  AU/ECA, RECs

c) The World Bank, ADB and the financing of regional integration

(This will explore the operations of key institutions which affect the regional integration practices and policies in Africa: e.g. the lending and financing policies of IFIs).

d) The international trade regime and regional integration

D. OBJECTIVES

The meeting aims to:

(a) discuss issues in regional integration and gender, and explore the approaches that can advance structural economic change and gender equity;

(b) Develop an agenda of issues for further research;

(c) Create a ‘loose network’ of scholars and activists for periodic engagement around policy issues thrown up by regional integration.

E. PARTICIPATION

20 participants including scholars, feminist economists, gender experts, and officials from policy making institutions

TWN-Africa Programmes

TWN-Africa has twenty-one, highly qualified, experienced and motivated members of staff.

TWN-Africa’s work has been conducted through a combination of strategies:

1) Information dissemination on issues of African and Southern interest;

2) Research which has policy relevance to struggles for economic and social justice and sustainable development; and

3) Campaigning and advocacy around policy issues, in collaboration with partners throughout Africa and also in the rest of the world, especially the South. TWN-Africa publishes briefing papers, often timed as strategic interventions in critical policy debates. TWN-Africa strives to reach across Africa’s language divides. It has a full time French-English translation department and outside support for Portuguese and Arabic translation.

Through its programme areas - political economy, gender and environment - a coordinated analysis and focused research and policy advocacy framework has been defined.

The Political Economy Unit’s work is united around the issues of trade, investment and Africa’s economic development needs in the era of the new international trade and investment regime. The unit seeks to: make the international trade and investment regime, including the WTO respond more sensitive to the needs of African countries; promote equity in international trade and investment; and develop a framework for Africa’s developmental agenda.

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