Book Chapter, pages 166-203
Author: Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development; Director, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project; Principal Investigator, Agricultural Innovation in Africa
"African countries are increasingly focusing on promoting regional economic integration as a way to stimulate economic growth and expand local markets. Considerable progress has been made in expanding regional trade through regional bodies such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC). There are six other such Regional Economic Communities (RECs) that are recognized by the African Union as building blocks for pan-African economic integration. So far, regional cooperation in agriculture is in its infancy and major challenges lie ahead. This chapter will explore the prospects of using regional bodies as agents of agricultural innovation through measures such as regional specialization. The chapter will examine ways to strengthen the role of the RECs in promoting innovation. It adopts the view that effective regional integration is a learning process that involves continuous institutional adaptation.
Through extensive examples of initiatives at the national or cross-border levels, this chapter provides cases for regional collaboration or scaling up national programs to regional programs. Africa's RECs have convening powers that position them as valuable vehicles. That is, they convene meetings of political leaders at the highest level, and these leaders take decisions that are binding on the member states; the member states then regularly report on their performance regarding these decisions. Such meetings provide good platforms for sharing information and best practices. Africa's RECs have established and continue to designate centers of excellence in various areas. COMESA, for instance, has established reference laboratories for animal and plant research in Kenya and Zambia. Designation of centers of excellence for specific aspects of agricultural research will greatly assist specialization within the RECs and put to common use the knowledge from the expertise identified in the region...."
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