Key Pillars of Africa’s Regional Integration

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The Assembly of the African Union have adopted and are pursuing regional integration as an overarching continental development strategy. In 1991, African Heads of State and Government signed the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (the Abuja Treaty), which provides the guiding principles and goals, and a region-wide framework to strengthen the integration agenda. The vision at the continental level is to achieve an African Economic Community by the end of six successive stages. The rationale behind the six-phased approach is that the integration vision should first consolidate at the regional level, through creating and strengthening the regional economic communities, which would eventually merge into the African Economic Community. The illustration below provides a preview of this process.


 Abuja Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community



Key milestones

First stage


  • Strengthening of existing regional economic communities; establishing new regional economic communities in regions where they did not exist previously

Second stage


  • Stabilization of tariff and non-tariff barriers, customs duties and internal taxes in each regional economic community
  • Schedules for the removal of such barriers
  • Harmonization of customs duties
  • Strengthening of sector integration
  • Coordination and harmonization of the activities of regional economic communities

Third stage


  • Establishment of a free trade area and customs union in each regional economic community

Fourth stage


  • Coordination and harmonization of tariffs and non-tariff systems among regional economic communities, leading to a continental customs union

Fifth stage


  • Common sector policies
  • Harmonization of monetary, financial and fiscal policies
  • Free movement of persons and rights of residence and establishment

Sixth stage 


  • African Common Market
  • Pan-African Economic and Monetary Union
  • African Central Bank
  • Pan-African Parliament
  • Development of African multinational enterprises

Source: ECA adaption of the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (June, 1991).


There are eight regional economic communities recognized as the building blocks of the African Union. The following communities are expected to serve their member States with the implementation of the regional integration agenda:

The path to African integration has been marked by a series of major initiatives and political decisions to accelerate it and to integrate variables of new imperatives in international economic relations. The Abuja Treaty stipulates that African States must endeavour to strengthen their regional economic communities, in particular by coordinating, harmonizing and progressively integrating their activities in order to attain the African Economic Community. To measure the process of integration, the Observatory on Regional Integration in Africa has identified five key pillars derived from treaties and protocols of the African Union and the regional economic communities:


a)      Trade and market integration

b)      Macroeconomic policy convergence

c)       Free movement of persons

d)      Peace, security, stability and governance 

e)      Harmonization of sectoral policies