The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) of the African Union

Africa's Regional Economic Communities (RECs) include eight sub regional bodies which are the building blocks of the African Economic Community established in the 1991 Abuja Treaty which provides the overarching framework for continental economic integration. These are:

RECs: Building Blocks for the African Union

Africa’s RECs do not only constitute key building blocks for economic integration in Africa, but are also key actors working in collaboration with the African Union (AU), in ensuring peace and stability in their regions.
As the building blocks and implementing arms of the African Union (AU), the RECs have been central to various transformative programs of the continent, including the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) adopted in 2001, and the AU’s Agenda 2063 adopted by its Summit in January 2015, and its First Ten-Year Implementation Plan adopted by the 25th Summit of the AU in June 2015.

Beyond their role in peace and security, RECs have the immense challenge of working with governments, civil society and the AU Commission in raising the standard of living of the people of Africa and contributing towards the progress and development of the continent through economic growth and social development.

The RECs will be highly essential and instrumental for the effective implementation, financing, monitoring and evaluation of Agenda 2063 and its flagship programmes, at particularly the regional levels. As African Union’s 50-year structural transformation and development plan for realizing the Pan-African vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena,” Agenda 2063 provides a new impetus for enhanced engagement by the RECs.

OSAA’s Engagement with the RECs

The Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) maintains a multifaceted engagement with Africa’s RECs as major partners in the implementation of its mandate. This engagement is conducted both in the field and at UN Headquarters in New York.

Annual Briefings

In collaboration with the Office of the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations, OSAA convenes yearly briefings by African RECs to the Member States of the United Nations in New York during Africa Week in October.

Initiated in 2010 the Annual RECs’ briefing in New York during Africa Week is a platform for direct engagement and interactions between the RECs and the international community, particularly the UN System. This followed the recognition of the fact that though increasingly integral to the work of both the UN and the AU in the areas of peace, security, socio-economic development and regional integration, the RECs did not have a regular platform to showcase their work at the UN Headquarters. The latter was also not always fully privy to the enormous and crucial contributions the RECs make to the shared goal of the maintenance of international peace and security, and the achievement of international cooperation in solving global economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems.

Scope

Over the last four years, the briefings have focused on various thematic issues, including on building resilience and capacity of African countries, regional and sub-regional institutions to pre-empt and respond to humanitarian crises and disasters. In 2014, the briefings focused on the role of the RECs in consolidating peace, security, governance and development in the context of Agenda 2063, the African Union’s 50-year structural transformation plan.

During these briefings, the RECs and UN bodies discuss the roles, and ways in which the contributions of Africa’s RECs in consolidating peace, security and socio-economic development in Africa can be enhanced. The RECs discuss also:

  • recent developments and achievements in their respective regions. 
  • ways of strengthening their role in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of AU programmes such as Agenda 2063 and its NEPAD programme.

Coordination Meetings

OSAA also organises high-level coordination meetings with the leaders of the RECs in the margins of the AU Summits. These meetings are attended by the Chief Executives of the RECs and some of their respective senior officials such as Commissioners and Directors.

During these meeting, the RECs and the UN also identify priority as well as cross cutting issues, and exchange views on means and ways of strengthening the engagement and cooperation with the UN and with the international community as a whole.

Impact of the engagement with the RECs

The findings and recommendations from RECs briefing and coordination meetings are shared:

  • with the UN Interdepartmental Task Force on African Affairs, to ensure coherence and an integrated approach for United Nations system support to the RECs in the implementation of Africa’s transformative Agendas, and
  • with the African Union for consideration in various policy and programmatic processes.

In addition, the RECs constitute a key channel for delivery of the advocacy and operational support which OSAA and UNDP continue to provide to the AU and NEPAD.

The Annual Briefings with the RECs:

  • Foster direct dialogue and interaction between the RECs and the international community, particularly potential partners, on areas where there has been progress, as well as existing gaps and priorities that require greater input and support, including through enhanced partnerships. 
  • Raise global awareness on the work of RECs, including their achievements and challenges in the area of peace, security, humanitarian assistance, adherence to human rights and socio-economic development, while also fostering peer learning among the RECs.
  • create opportunities for the RECs to build and strengthen contacts with the international community and particularly with the UN.

Strategic Partnership

The Partnership between the United Nations and the African Union on Africa’s Integration and Development Agenda (PAIDA) outlines seven main principles that should guide the UN-AU cooperation, including a renewed strategic partnership with the RECs. Learn more about PAIDA >>