Image of the African Union's headquarters in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)
Regional Integration
Ever since its independence, Africa has aspired to have regional integration. These integration processes have multiplied with the continent's attempt to overcome common problems and to economically progress together. Spain has a particularly close relationship with the African Union and with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

From the beginning of the era of independence, between the 1950s and 1980s, almost all African countries embraced the idea of regional integration. After national plans to resolve the problems of underdevelopment failed, post-colonial African governments tried to find solutions in the framework of wider political and economic, regional and continental groups.

The need for regional African integration as a strategy for development has been reinforced by the current globalisation process organised in regional blocks, with the European Union being one of the sources of inspiration for Africa. Regional integration, therefore, presents itself as the only strategy that is capable of resolving the common problems that Africa is facing, and as a platform to turn into power, with economic integration being an instrument for development. Among its objectives, the Constitutive Act of the African Union aims to "accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent", and to do that it has established a Coordination Committee for the different integration processes in the framework of the Protocol on Relations between the AU and the Regional Economic Communities (ERC) signed in 2008.

At present, Africa has more regional organisations than any other continent, and most African countries are members of more than one regional integration initiative. There are more than 200 regional groups, which range from sectorial cooperation organisations (financial, banking, agricultural, customs or river restoration) to political unions with a certain surrender of sovereignty.

Spain has very close relations with some regional African organisations, such as the ECOWAS, which is considered as an organisation of reference, and the SADC, which Spain is accredited with. Moreover, in recent years Spain has contributed financially to the AU Commission's Strategic Plans, of which Spain is a privileged partner.

 

The most relevant regional groups in the continent are the following:

African Union
The most important regional group of all is the African Union (AU); a supra-national organisation created in 2002- which succeeded the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), founded in 1963- has its headquarters in Addis Ababa. All the countries in the continent are members, after the reincorporation of Morocco in January 2017.

The main objectives of the AU are to achieve greater unity and solidarity among African countries, the defence of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its members, the deepening of political and socio-economic integration in the continent, as well as the promotion of peace, security and stability, democracy, human rights and the sustainable development of the continent.

At present, the AU is immersed in an important process of reforms concerning different fields, particularly its financing system and the creation of a continental area of the free trade and circulation of people. Among its initiatives, Agenda 2063 should be highlighted, as should the growing implication in terms of peace and security (African Peace and Security Roadmap 2016-2020), a greater, improved collaboration with the UN and the deepening of relations with European partners and the EU.

The main organs include: the Assembly, the Executive Council, the Commission, the Peace and Security Council, the Pan-African Parliament, the Economic, Social and Cultural Council and the Court of Justice. The current president of the African Union Commission is Moussa Faki from Chad.

 

Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (EMCCA)
Comprised of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Created in 1994, the EMCCA promotes economic integration among the countries that share the currency of the CFA franc.

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
Made up of Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Burundi and São Tomé and Príncipe. Founded in 1983, the ECOWAS promotes the economic, social and cultural development of its Member States and plays are particularly relevant role with regards peace and security.

The Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (ECGLC)
Created in 1976, the member countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda. The ECGLC was created to promote economic integration among its Member States as well as regional security.

International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR)
Formed in 2000, this is made up of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, the Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya and the Republic of Congo. Its activities encompass the areas of peace and security, good governance and democracy, economic development and regional integration and humanitarian and social issues.

Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
Comprised of Burundi, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, the Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Created in 1994, COMESA is a customs union.
 
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
Grouping together Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. Founded in 1975, its activities involve three fields: trade, regional economic cooperation and economic integration, by means of creating community projects. The mediating role it has played in the recent political crises in the Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau and Mali should be emphasised.
 
Southern African Development Community (SADC)
Comprising of Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, the Seychelles and Madagascar (a member that is currently suspended due to the 2009 coup d'état). Created in 1979, the main objective of the SADC is to drive the economic development of the member countries by means of helping the most disadvantaged sectors and eradicating poverty.
 
Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)
This organisation was formally set up in 1996, succeeding the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development which was created 10 years prior. It currently groups together Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Djibouti, Eritrea and South Sudan. The new IGAD was created with a new organisational structure and new areas of regional cooperation; its mission is to coordinate the help of its Member States in order to achieve food security, to protect the environment, to promote and maintain peace and security as well as economic cooperation and integration. The IGAD is currently carrying out a great mediating effort in the serious conflict that has been affecting South Sudan since 2013.

African Development Bank (AfBD)
The continent also has the African Development Bank. It was created in 1964 and is made up of 54 African countries and 27 non-African countries, one of which being Spain, which joined in 1973. The Bank's main objective is to fight against poverty, stimulating sustainable economic growth and social progress in the continent. Its priority areas are the development of infrastructure, regional economic integration, the development of the private sector, economic governance and technical and professional training.

 

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