Regional Economic Communities (RECs)
The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are regional groupings of African states. The RECs have developed individually and have differing roles and structures. Generally, the purpose of the RECs is to facilitate regional economic integration between members of the individual regions and through the wider African Economic Community (AEC), which was established under the Abuja Treaty (1991). The 1980 Lagos Plan of Action for the Development of Africa and the Abuja Treaty proposed the creation of RECs as the basis for wider African integration, with a view to regional and eventual continental integration. The RECS are increasingly involved in coordinating AU Member States’ interests in wider areas such as peace and security, development and governance.
The RECs are closely integrated with the AU’s work and serve as its building blocks. The relationship between the AU and the RECs is mandated by the Abuja Treaty and the AU Constitutive Act, and guided by the: 2008 Protocol on Relations between the RECs and the AU; and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in the Area of Peace and Security between the AU, RECs and the Coordinating Mechanisms of the Regional Standby Brigades of Eastern and Northern Africa.
The AU recognises eight RECs, the:
• Arab Maghreb Union (UMA)
• Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
• Community of Sahel–Saharan States (CEN–SAD)
• East African Community (EAC)
• Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)
• Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
• Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)2
• Southern African Development Community (SADC).
In addition, the Eastern Africa Standby Force Coordination Mechanism (EASFCOM) and North
African Regional Capability (NARC) both have liaison offices at the AU.
The Protocol on Relations between the RECs and the AU provides a coordination framework between the AEC and the RECs. This framework has the following two elements.
1. UMA is not a signatory to the Protocol on Relations between the RECs and the AU.
2. In October 2013, on the sidelines of an AU Extraordinary Summit, IGAD and EAC Foreign Ministers decided to explore the possibility of merging these two RECs.
Download here the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (ENG,FRA,POR)
by Muluh Cletus, SIHMA Researcher
As a first step towards continental integration, the Regional Economic Communities (REC) established under the Abuja Treaty of 1991 and the Lagos Plan of Action for the Development of Africa, created regional blocks to facilitate the regional economic integration of member states within the continent. Regional organisations are therefore, seen as an effective and efficient vehicle through which continental integration and free movement of people can be achieved. As an umbrella organisation, the African Union (AU) has a close working relationship with the REC as stipulated by the Abuja Treaty and the AU Constitutive Act and guided by the 2008 Protocol on relations between the REC and the AU and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cooperation in the areas of peace and security between AU, REC and coordination mechanisms of the Regionals Standby Brigades of Eastern and Northern Africa. There are 8 RECs recognised by AU; Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Community of Sahel - Saharan States (CEN-SAD), East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)2, Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Southern African Development Community (SADC)
The Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC), established in 1980, was transformed into the Southern African Development Community (SADC) through an established SADC Treaty in 1992 by the Heads of States of member countries of the Southern African region. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) comprises 16 member states Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Through regional integration, the organisation seeks to reduce poverty through economic development and ensure peace and security within the region. The region has an estimated population of 363.2 million people and 6.4 million international migrants by mid-year 2020 (Migration Data Portal, 2021). South Africa, the most attractive and industrialized nation in the region hosted about 2.9 million international migrants within the region (Ibid). The Treaty establishing SADC was grounded on the desire for a stronger regional integration as a tool for regional development.
One of the core objectives of the treaty inter alia is to
progressively eliminate barriers to goods, services, and people. An objective deeply rooted in the Pan Africanist ideology. The draft protocol proposal which advocated for free movement and residency for nationals of member states, was challenged by some countries (South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia) as a result of the economic disparities between member states (Nshimbi & Fioramonti, 2013). As a result, the proposal was dropped. A new draft proposal that aimed at developing policies that will facilitate the movement of people and progressively eliminate barriers to movement within the region (SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of the Movement of Persons) was accepted. Although adopted, it is yet to enter into force as only four member states (South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Mozambique) have ratified the protocol. However, most countries within the region through multilateral and bilateral agreements have complied with one of the core objectives of the protocol that ensures granting visa-free entry, with a lawful purpose to citizens from other member states for a maximum of 90 days. Paradoxically, the establishment of the framework is met with increased border securitization and border management approaches which do not only delay but prevent the free movement of people (Tevera, 2020). For example, Beitbridge/Musina border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe where migrants experience long queues, delays, and rejection. Within national borders in the SADC region, but with the case of Botswana, that has a friendly migration policy, other countries within the region exhibit immigration policies that seek to enforce, control, and exclude (Crush, Peberdy, & William, 2006)
Other milestones towards integration within the region include the establishment of a free trade area – with the ultimate objective to attain zero duty in intra-regional trade amongst member states, a customs union – to harmonise external trade tariffs and external trade policy, a common market – to remove trade barriers, establish common tariffs and non-tariffs for importers and the free movement of all factors related to production, monetary union – to achieve, inter alia; macroeconomic convergence, stable and common exchange rate system, common monetary policy and a single currency – common currency for the entire region (SADC, 2012).