Regional Integration in East Africa Diversity or Economic Conformity
The present paper examines the economic rationale for regional economic integration, such as a common market and currency union, in the East African Community (EAC). For that purpose, I examined the degree of regional economic interdependence in terms of trade, macroeconomic indicators, and real disturbances (IS shocks) in the EAC. First, I used the trade intensity indices (TTI) to examine whether the degree of trade interdependence in East Africa is higher or lower than that in other regions (e.g., Asia), and whether the region’s economic interdependence has deepened since the reformation of the EAC in 2000. Surprisingly, the interdependence in terms of trade in Africa is very strong, much stronger than that in Asian countries. Second, I investigated whether the macroeconomic links among the East African economies are strong and whether they became tighter in the 1990s. Relying on the principal component analysis, I have found that the degree of confluence in macroeconomic variables, such as inflation, growth, and exchange rates, is high in East Africa, although I did not observe a clear trend of increases. Third, relying on the theory of the optimum currency area, I examined the prospects for currency unification in the EAC. For that purpose, I examined the degree of synchronization of real disturbances (IS shocks) among EAC countries, and compared it with that among Asian countries. By applying the principal component analysis on IS shocks in each country, I found that the EAC countries face similar real disturbances. This suggests that the need for independent monetary policy is less than otherwise, and therefore the EAC is a good candidate for the optimal currency area. All these findings suggest that there is a strong case for a common market and currency union in the EAC.
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