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Kenya is ranked the most integrated country in the eastern and southern african region of all the regional economic communities. This is according to the Africa Regional Integration Index (ARII), the first such initiative to measure progress on regional integration.

The index was launched in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia early this month during African Development week.

Kenya which is a key member of both the EAC and COMESA topped in three of the four regional economic communities (RECs) in which it is a member. Save for the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), Kenya was the best performer in regional integration in the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The country scored highly in trade integration, meaning its level of customs duty on imports was low, and it also had a huge share of intra-regional trade goods.

The ARII is a collaborative effort between the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). It seeks to collect data on the impacts of regional integration.

Although regional integration is often quoted as a key component of economic transformation, up until now, no mechanisms existed to systematically measure how different African countries and regions fared. This flagship report assesses the current situation on the continent and highlights gaps and best practices.

The ARII looks at 16 indicators across five broad dimensions, which are: trade integration, productive integration, regional infrastructure, free movement of people, and financial integration. The indicators measure important aspects such as share of intra-regional trade as a percentage of total trade, and proportion of intra-regional flights, among others.

Countries that scored highly in a number of dimensions under the category of “broadly integrated” include Kenya, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon. In COMESA, Zambia comes second to Kenya with Uganda and Egypt following in that order. Countries are considered ‘broadly integrated,’ when it is strongly integrated on three or more of the dimensions, showing a breadth of diversity in their integration agenda.

Findings show that while progress is being made with 28 top performing countries across the eight Regional Economic Communities, average integration scores stand at below half of the scale. The EAC was ranked top among the eight RECS in the continent.

Additionally, Africa has a significant way to go if all countries are to reach the frontier of what the best performers are achieving in the area of regional integration. The greatest divergence in regional performance is in the area of financial integration and macroeconomic policy convergence.

Interestingly, countries with the largest economies do not always perform the best, says the report.