Robust regional blocs crucial for African unity – Rwanda’s Kagame

RWANDAN President Paul Kagame says the African Union (AU) could become a strong body as the European Union (EU) despite well documented hurdles.

Kagame, who is the immediate past president of the AU (for the year 2018) stressed that a united AU will be well served if regional political, economic blocs unite at their respective levels.

He was speaking to the East African newspaper in an exclusive chat that spanned his work as AU president, issues back home and within the East Africa region.

Asked whether his vision for the AU was to make it as strong as the EU, he responded: ‘It is possible. The European Union has 28 countries, the African continent has 55, so it is going to be more difficult to bring 55 together than 28 countries.

‘But there are many ways in which we can do it. For example, if you took these regional blocs, the closer they come together, the easier it becomes to draw them together, and therefore bring the whole continent together in the end. So, we should take it step by step, as practically as possible,’ he stressed.

Kagame’s AU reign saw the signing of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA, adoption of a number of proposed reforms in late 2018 with the biggest hurdle being the handling of the post-electoral tension in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.

Aside the North African region, four main blocs in sub-Saharan Africa have politico-economic groups. The Economic Community of West Africa States, ECOWAS; the Southern Africa Development Community, SADC; the East African Community, EAC and the Economic Community of Central African States, ECCAS.

There are other blocs like the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD).

The Arab Maghreb Union, AMU, pools together all North African countries plus Mauritania but excluding Egypt. The Arab League is a broader North Africa – Middle East group most countries atop of the Sahara belong.

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