Windhoek - The African Union (AU) is hoping that 2020 is the year when the continental body lays a proper foundation that would help bridge the gap between the Union and Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
The eight AU-recognised RECs are 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), and Southern African Development Community (SADC).
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 blocs.
Despite the work of the RECs clearly outlined, these economic communities have not been able to perform their duties efficiently.
Former SADC chairperson and Namibian president Hage Geingob said, at continental level, the current situation of overlapping mandates and duplication of efforts among RECs and between RECs and AU undermines progress, and needs to be resolved as a pre-condition to accelerating continental integration.
“There is need for absolute clarity of roles and responsibility between AU and RECs, and the principle of subsidiarity should provide the basis for effective division of labour, bearing in mind the financial challenges being faced by member states. In this regard, member states should direct and take ownership of the formulation of policies and programmes at the regional and continental levels with a view to ensuring value for money,” he said.
The clarity appears to be on course in 2020 as the AU is in the process of developing a new departmental structure that is lean and performance-oriented, taking into account the division of labour between the African Union, RECs and Regional Mechanisms, Member States and continental organisations.
This information emanated from the 39th Session of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) currently underway in Ethiopia.
Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission, Kwesi Quartey, said the sub-committees of the Permanent Representatives Committee reviewed the proposed new structure along with the proposed financing strategy in October and November 2019.
The revised proposal was considered and adopted by the PRC from 4-5 December 2019.
“It will now be considered by Policy Organs in February 2020. The sub-committee provided feedback on the transition plan for the new departmental structure. Based on feedback provided and following validation by the Commission, the sub-committee will review the revised financing and transition plan and then transmit the same for the PRC’s consideration during this session,” he said.
For Africa, a vast continent of over 1.2 billion people, integration has considerable potentials not only for promoting robust and equitable economic growth, but also for reducing conflicts, and promoting sustainable peace and stability. The aim is for member states to redouble their efforts in regional and continental commitments, and reap the fruits of integration.