Definition of economic integration. Economic integration may be defined as a condition of international trade in which all trade barriers and restrictions are removed. In economic integration, there is perfect capital mobility, complete freedom of establishment of business and unhindered flow of information and technology.

Countries with common interests come together to form an organization whose major objectives are to remove trade barriers and other obstacles that reduce the free flow of goods and services between them. A good example of an economic integration in Africa is the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS).

Types of regional economic integration in Africa

  •  Free trade area: free trade area is the type of integration in which member-countries agree to remove all restrictions to trade among them. Tariffs, quotas and bans are not imposed on goods coming from or going to member- nations. There exists a common internal tariff policy among member-nations. However, each country is free to have its own tariff policy as regards commodities from countries outside the free trade area.

  •  Common market: Common market also known as Economic Community, is a form of co-operation in which there is a common internal and external tariff policy. There is free mobility of labour and capital between member- states. That is, there is free movement of goods, services, capital and labour. A common market harmonises taxation, social and economic policies. A good example of a common market is the European Economic Community (EEC).
  • Economic Union: Economic union is a type of integration which takes the form of total integration of the member-countries. It is aimed at harmonizing the social, economic, industrial commercial and technological polices of member-nations. Furthermore, it involves the unification of member-nations, monetary and fiscal policies. A good example of Economic union is the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS).

  •  Customs Union: Customs union is agreement among nations to eliminate trade barriers such as tariffs and quotas among themselves or members and to adopt common barriers to imports from non- member- countries.

Characteristics of customs union in Africa

  • Tariffs are abolished.
  •  Each member-countries is given free hand to maintain its customs duties and tariffs against non-member countries.
  •  All track restrictions are abolished.
  •  The members may agree on common customs duties and tariffs against any non-member country.

Advantages of Customs Union in Africa

  • It enhances good welfare for the citizen.
  • It improves efficiency and stimulation of faster economic development.
  •  It results in lower cost per unit due to internal economies reaped by producing for a large market.
  •  There is a large internal market for members and increased trading activities between member countries.

Disadvantages of Customs Union in  Africa

  • There may be possible death of some industries resulting in some degree frictional unemployment.
  • There may be loss of revenue that would have accrued as a result of abolition tariffs.

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