There are several economic blocs in Africa that are also known as Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The major aim of these blocs s to group together individual countries in subregions with the purpose of achieving greater economic prosperity through integration.
Currently there are 8 Regional Economic Communities in Africa that are recognized by the African Union (AU) and each bloc was established under a separate regional treaty. They include:
Arab Maghreb Union (UMA)
The Arab Maghreb Union is a trade agreement among Africa Arab countries of the Maghreb in North Africa aiming for economic and future political unity of member states. Current members include Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia.
The Arab Maghreb Union was formed 17 February 1989 when the five member states signed the treaty for its formation in Marrakech, Morocco. The idea for an economic union of the Maghreb had begun earlier with the independence of Tunisia and Morocco in 1956 though its establishment had to wait for over 30 years.
According to the Union’s Constitutive Act, the major aims include to guarantee cooperation with similar regional institutions, take part in the enrichment of the international dialogue, to reinforce the independence of member states, and to safeguard their assets.
The Union’s success has been heavily affected by deep economic and political disagreements between Morocco and Algeria especially concerning the issue of Western Sahara. There has been no high level meeting among member states since November 2008 and it is regarded as largely dormant.
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is a free trade area currently made up of 21 member states including those in the Northern part of the continent like Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Sudan.
COMESA was formed in December 1994, replacing the Preferential Trade Area that had existed since 1981. In 2000, nine of COMESA member states formed a Free Trade Area (FTA) and these included Djibouti, Egypt, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Sudan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Other member states started joining the FTA at different intervals wit Rwanda and Burundi joining 2004, Comoros and Libya in 2006, Seychelles in 2009 while both Tunisia and Somalia joined in 2018.
In 2008, COMESA agreed to expand its Free Trade Zone to include other two other African trade blocs, the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). COMESA is now considering to introduce a common visa scheme to boot the tourism industry of the member states
Since 1997, five members have so far left COMESA and they include Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Namibia, and Angola who left in that chronological order with the latest exit happening in 2007 by Angola.
The current member states of COMESA by region include those from the horn of Africa as Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Those from North Africa include Egypt, Libya, Sudan, and Tunisia. Members from the Indian Ocean include Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles. Members from the Great Lakes Region include Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, and Uganda. Southern Africa members include Eswatini, Zambia, and Zimbabwe while Democratic Republic of Congo is the other member from Central Africa.
Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD)
The Community of Sahel-Saharan States runs on a major aim of creating a Free Trade Area within Africa though its level of economic integration is still low compared to other trade blocs like COMESA that have succeeded in creating the FTA.
CEN-SAD was founded in February 1998 as a six-member bloc but it has been since joined by 23 more states to make a total of 29. The bloc’s major aim is to achieve economic unity through implementing free movement of people and goods to create a Free Trade Area in the region occupied by member states.
The founding members of CEN-SAD include Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Niger, and Sudan.
Other states that joined the bloc later include Central African Republic, Eritrea, Djibouti, Gambia, Senegal, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Somalia, Tunisia, Benin, and Togo. Others include Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Comoros, Guinea, Kenya, Sao Tome and Principe, Mauritania, and Cape Verde.