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Economic Community of Central African States

Ecowas

Name: Economic Community of Central African States

Acronym: ECCAS

Year of foundation: 1983
Headquarters: Libreville, Gabon
Official web site:  go to page
ECCAS documents: go to page

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The Central African Parliamentary Network (REPAC)

Description

The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS; in French: CEEAC) is an organisation for promotion and of regional economic co-operation in Central Africa. It "aims to achieve collective autonomy, raise the standard of living of its populations and maintain economic stability through harmonious cooperation".

ECCAS has been set up in 1983 by eleven Central African States. Its initial goal was to promote exchange and collaboration among the members and give an institutional and legal framework to their cooperation. ECCAS is the largest economic community in Central Africa, regrouping the Member States of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) - Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Congo Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea - and those of the Economic Community of Great Lake Countries (CEPGL), except Rwanda - Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as Angola and Sao Tome and Principe. Covering an area of 6630539 km2, ECCAS has a total population of approximately 121 million.

 

Member countries


ECCAS has 10 member states:

Angola Burundi Cameroun Central African Republic Congo Brazzaville Gabon Equatorial Guinea Democratic Republic of Congo Sao Tome and Principe Tchad

History

The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) was created in 1983 as part of the Lagos Plan of Action, adopted by the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) to promote the establishment of a single Pan-African common market by the year 2000. The main initial objective of the Community was to prepare, on the regional level, for continent-wide economic integration. In contrast to the other main Central African regional community, the Economic and Monetary Union of Central Africa (CEMAC) that is more built on the region’s colonial legacy, ECCAS can be considered as a more African-driven initiative. lready in the 1960’s and the 1970’s, several States, such as notably Zaire (former DRC) had launched initiatives to set up a large economic community, including the countries of the Great Lakes region and the Members of CEMAC’s predecessor, the Union Douanière des Etats de l’Afrique Centrale (UDEAC). However, all of these projects failed. The creation of ECCAS was agreed in 1983. ECCAS began functioning in 1985, when the founding treaty had been ratified by all members, Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Congo Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sao Tome and Principe. Over the years, the Community’s membership underwent several fluctuations: Angola only changed in 1999 its initial observer status against full membership. Rwanda, struggling with coordinating its membership in four regional communities, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), CEPGL and ECCAS, quitted ECCAS in 2007.

Set up in the wake of the Lagos Plan of Action, ECCAS was initially conceived as a pillar of the African Economic Community (AEC). It was considered a step within the broad project to create an African common market. Its central objective was defined as promoting and strengthening economic and social cooperation and self-sustained development “in order to achieve collective self-reliance, raise the standard of living of its peoples, increase and maintain economic stability, foster close and peaceful relations between Member States and contribute to the progress and development of the African continent.”   To realize this aim, the 1983 adopted treaty provides a road map towards the establishment of a regional single market, including the abolishment of tariff and non-tariff barriers, the set up of an external common customs tariff and a common trade policy towards third countries, the progressive attainment of free movement of persons, goods, services and capital, as well as the harmonisation of national policies in a number of policy fields, such as industry, transport, energy and agriculture.

In its first decade of existence, ECCAS only showed poor performance, and contacts with AEC remained considerably limited. From the 1990’s on, the Community suffered from the lack of commitment of its Member States, their failure to regularly pay their fees and provide sufficient resources and capacities, as well as the rise of crises and conflicts in the region. In 1992, ECCAS entered a state of complete inactivity for several years. While the financial bottlenecks largely hindered the proper functioning of regional institutions and implementation of policies and activities, the conflict proneness of the region and especially the engagement of some members on opposite sides in the DRC war paralysed the economic cooperation and exchange within the Community. 

At an extraordinary summit held in Libreville, ECCAS States convened in 1998 to give new impetus to their cooperation and re-launch the regionalisation process. The Community embarked on a wide institutional reform and revision of the agenda. The promotion of economic cooperation and development through the progressive creation of a Central African single market was kept as the main central aim. Formal contacts with AEC were established in October 1999 and the importance of ECCAS as major economic community in Central Africa confirmed on the continental level. 

In addition, the Community decided to include a new focus on security and defence cooperation. Indeed, the experience of the past years made States increasingly aware that the achievement of the set economic goals requires a situation of peace and security. Trade and cooperation may indeed prove impossible as long as partner countries are in a state of war. Based on these considerations, it was decided to enlarge ECCAS’ mandate and to add the joint promotion of peace, security and stability as a new objective.

At their summit in Equatorial Guinea's capital Malabo in June 2002, the Heads of State defined four main priority fields for the Community:

  • to develop capacities to maintain peace, security and stability, which are essential prerequisites for economic and social development;
  • to develop physical, economic and monetary integration;
  • to develop a culture of human integration; and
  • to establish an autonomous financing mechanism for ECCAS.

     

ECCAS structure and decision-making procedures 

The Conference of Heads of State

The Conference presents the supreme authority of ECCAS. It gathers once a year the Member States’ political leaders. The Conference is entitled to formulate the overall policy of the Community and defines major policy orientations. It monitors the implementation of Community decisions and regulations by every Member State. In case of delay or default, it may report to the Community Court of Justice (that is not yet operational). Moreover, the Conference determines the staff regulations of the General Secretariat and appoints the Secretary-General and the deputy Secretaries-General, as well as the Financial Controller and the Accountant. It prepares ECCAS’ annual budget and fixes the contributions due by every Member State.

The Council of Ministers

In the performance of its duties, the Conference is assisted by the Council of Ministers. The Council is composed of the Member States’ Ministers responsible for economic development matters. The Council meets twice a year in regular session. It is responsible for the functioning and development of the Community and makes recommendations to the Conference in view of the overall achievement of the Community’s aims. It guides the activities of the other ECCAS institutions, notably the Secretariat and the technical and specialised committees. 

 

The Consultative Commission

The Council is advised by the Consultative Commission, comprising experts appointed by the Member States. The Consultative Commission’s major duty is to review questions and projects submitted by other ECCAS institutions and to advise the Council in performing its duties. It is moreover entitled to create specialised technical committees, if this is recommended by the Council of Ministers.

 

The Executive Secretariat

The central administrative organ is the Executive Secretariat, based in the Gabonese capital of Libreville. It is responsible for the execution of decisions and directives adopted by the Conference and the regulations issued by the Council of Ministers. The Secretary General is the head of the Secretariat. He is assisted by three deputies, a financial controller, an accountant and the Secretariat’s staff. The Secretary General oversees the institution's three departments for human, peace, security and stability integration; for physical, economic and monetary integration; and for programme, budget, administration and human resources issues.

The Community Court of Justice

ECCAS' founding treaty from 1983 moreover foresees the creation of a Community Court of Justice. According to article 16 of the treaty, the main function of this Court shall be to ensure the respect of the Community’s legal documents and give advice in questions of law interpretation, as well as default or delay by a Member State. Up to now, the Court is still not in place and operational.

 

The Council for Peace and Security in Central Africa

Council for Peace and Security in Central Africa (COPAX). COPAX is the central body for the promotion, maintenance and consolidation of peace and security in the area covered by ECCAS. It has three key technical organs: The Commission for Defence and Security (CDS) gathers the Member States’ chiefs of staff and commanders-in-chief of police and gendarmerie forces. It advises the Conference of Heads of State on security and defence issues as well as on the organisation of joint military operations if needed. The Central African Early-warning-system (MARAC) collects and analyses data for the early detection and prevention of crises. The Central African multinational force (FOMAC) is a Peace Support Operations (PSO) capacity composed of contingents provided by the Member States to carry out regional peace operations. The ratification process for the protocol on the establishment of COPAX was completed in January 2004 and the new organs and facilities are progressively put in place. The broadening of ECCAS’ institutional structure to include specific defence and security bodies and mechanisms was done in coordination with the African Union’s efforts to define a common peace and security policy and set up an African Peace and Security Architecture built on regional pillars.

 

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