Central African ministers agree to merge two regional blocs to boost trade and growth
The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), made up of 11 members, will join the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), made up of six members. The deal aims to eliminate the rivalry that has helped make Central Africa the poorest region among African economic groups. Central African economy ministers say they want to foster regional integration, accelerate economic transformation and facilitate development by merging the two economic blocs. Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Chad are members of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, or CEMAC, while the Economic Community of Central African States, ECCAS , is made up of all CEMAC member states plus Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Sao Tome and Principe. ECCAS was created in 1983 to reduce inequalities and poverty in Central Africa. Central African leaders created CEMAC about a decade later, launching it in 1999 for the same purpose. The African Union reports that the free movement of people and goods remains a dream in the majority of Central African states. The lack of a functioning common market and customs union envisioned by Central African leaders when they created the two structures has further deepened poverty. Together, ECCAS and CEMAC constitute a market of more than 240 million people and the least integrated region in Africa, according to the African Union. Ministers meeting in Cameroon on Wednesday said the two blocs would be merged before the end of 2023.