The unification of Africa has been a crucial issue that has been discussed since the continent’s colonial era. Numerous organizations have been set up to make the dream a reality. The unification of the continent inspired the establishment of Africa’s largest economic organization, the African Economic Community, which is comprised of all African countries. The organization is itself made up of regional economic blocs, also known as its pillars.
Economic Community of West African States
The Economic Community of West African States is one of Africa’s major economic blocs. As the union’s name denotes, the trade bloc is made up of African countries found in the western part of the continent. In total, 15 countries make up the membership of ECOWAS. These countries cumulatively cover an area of over 1.97 million square miles and a population of 0.349 billion people. The official languages used during proceedings of the union are English, Portuguese and French. This regional economic organization was instituted in 1975 as part of the “Treaty of Lagos,” whose sole purpose was to integrate the economies of member countries by removing significant barriers to trade. With Western African countries often grappling with civil wars and political upheavals, the body also engages in peacekeeping activities among member countries. In 1991, member states agreed on the formation of a judicial arm of the union, the Community Court of Justice whose mandate is to protect citizens against human rights violations.
East African Community
The East African Community is another important trade bloc in Africa. The member states in the regional block are all from the eastern part of the continent and include Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, and Burundi. Headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania, the trade bloc covers a total area of 0.952 million square miles and is home to over 168 million people. East African Community has a cumulative GDP of $0.232 billion. The East African Community is among the most integrated of all trade blocs in Africa, as it has a free trade area and while there are presently six currencies recognized in the EAC, there are plans to establish a common currency to be universally used in all member states. The regional bloc was established in 1967, but internal wrangles led to its collapse in 1977, before it was later revived in 2000.
Economic Community of Central African States
The Economic Community of Central African States is another important intergovernmental trade bloc in the continent. The regional economic organization was formed in October 1983. The ECCAS is the only regional bloc where English is not used as a working language, with French, Portuguese, and Spanish being the organization’s official languages. Headquartered in Libreville, Gabon, the regional economic organization is comprised of 10 countries. The Gross Domestic Product of this economic organization is estimated to amount to $0.289 billion.
Southern African Development Community
Another important economic organization in Africa is the Southern African Development Community, better known by its acronym SADC. The intergovernmental bloc is made up of 16 countries, all drawn from southern and central Africa, and has its headquarters domiciled in Gaborone, Botswana. Portuguese, French, and English are established as the organization’s official languages. The primary purpose of the multinational organization is to integrate the economic and political relations among its member countries. SADC covers a combined area of 3.815 million square miles, making it among Africa’s largest intergovernmental organizations, and is home to an estimated 277 million people. The cumulative GDP of the economic bloc is estimated to be $0.909 billion.
Intergovernmental Authority on Development
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development is an economic bloc that covers the Horn of Africa. The regional bloc covers a total area of 2.009 million square miles and has a combined Gross Domestic Product of $0.326 billion. South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Djibouti are the countries that constitute the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which is headquartered in Djibouti City, Djibouti. The IGAD was formed in 1996 and was preceded by another major trade bloc in the region, IGADD (Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development). Eritrea joined the regional organization in 1993, withdrew its membership in 2007 but was later admitted in 2011. English is recognized as the official language in the economic bloc.
Community of Sahel-Saharan States
The Community of Sahel-Saharan States is one of Africa’s largest economic organizations, as it is made up of 29 member countries, the highest of Africa’s trade blocs. These member countries are drawn from the Sahel-Sahara region of the continent, spreading from Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east. The regional trade bloc was established in 1998 as a result of a summit of governmental leaders organized in Tripoli. The regional economic bloc currently has its headquarters housed in Tripoli, Libya. In line with economic integration among the countries, the organization has plans to construct a railway connecting the member nations. The trade organization has four official working languages, the highest in Africa.
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa
Another trade bloc in Africa is the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, commonly referred to by its acronym; COMESA. Formed in 1994, COMESA is made up of 19 member countries, drawn from the central, eastern, and northeastern part of the continent, with a combined GDP of $1.001 billion. Kenya, Ethiopia, Libya, Sudan, Madagascar, Zambia, Eritrea, Seychelles, Djibouti, Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda, Swaziland, Mauritius, Egypt, Liberia, Zimbabwe, DRC, and Burundi are the countries under the trade bloc. English, Portuguese, and French are recognized as the three official languages. The judicial arm of the trade bloc is known as the COMESA court which has jurisdiction over disputes between member states.
Arab Maghreb Union
Another pillar of the African Economic Union is the Arab Maghreb Union, a trade bloc that covers northwestern Africa, commonly known as Africa’s Maghreb region. The economic bloc covers a combined area of over 2.332 million square miles and has a total population of over 98.517 million people. Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, and Mauritania are the member countries of the economic organization, which is headquartered in Rabat, Morocco. The Arab Maghreb Union was established in February 1989 aimed at facilitating economic integration among Maghreb countries and made Arabic its official language. The economic organization has a GDP of $0.579 million.
Major Regional Economic Organizations Of Africa
|Rank||Name of organization||Date created||Member countries||Cumulative GDP (in millions of US dollars)|
|1||Economic Community of West African States||28 May 1975||Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo||657|
|2||East African Community||30 November 1999||Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania||232|
|3||Economic Community of Central African States||18 October 1983||Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Chad||289|
|4||Southern African Development Community||17 August 1992||Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe||909|
|5||Intergovernmental Authority on Development||25 November 1996||Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan||326|
|6||Community of Sahel-Saharan States||4 February 1998||Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Comores, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Togo, Tunisia||1, 692|
|7||Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa||5 November 1993||Burundi, Comores, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe||1,011|
|8||Arab Maghreb Union||17 February 1989||Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Tunisia||579|