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Central African Ministers Agree to Merge Two Regional Blocs to Boost Trade and Growth

The 11-member Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) will join with the six-member Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC). The deal aims to eliminate rivalry that has helped to make central Africa the poorest region among Africa’s 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, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Sao Tome and Principe. ECCAS was created in 1983 to reduce inequality 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 free movement of people and goods remains a dream in a majority of central African states. The absence of a functioning common market and customs union envisaged 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 inhabitants and is the least integrated region in Africa, according to the African Union. The ministers meeting in Cameroon on Wednesday said the two blocs will be merged before the end of 2023.