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Home / Monitored IGOS / Africa / Central African Economic and Monetary Community

Central African Economic and Monetary Community



Name: Central African Economic and Monetary Community
Acronym: CEMAC
Year of foundation: 1999

Headquarters: Bangui, Central African Republic

CEMAC documents: go to page

CEMAC official web site: go to page

CEMAC Parliament


The Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) is made up of six States: Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, the Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea. With a total population of about 37 million, it covers a total surface of around 3 million km2. Together with the larger Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the mainly inactive Economic Community of Great Lake Countries (CEPGL), CEMAC presents one of the Central African regional Communities established to promote cooperation and exchange among its members.


Member countries

Cemac has six member states

Cameroun the Central African Republic Congo Brazzaville Gabon Equatorial Guinea Tchad



In the context of a general revival of regional cooperation on the African continent during the 1990's, Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea decided to give new impetus to their regional economic cooperation. They agreed to replace by a new regional Community the largely neglected customs union, the Union Douanière des Etats de l’Afrique centrale (UDEAC), they had established following their independence in the 1960's.

The Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) was created in 1994 and became operational after the treaty’s ratification in 1999.

The resumption of regional cooperation in Central Africa implied a general review of UDEAC's agenda and objectives and adaptation to the regional and global context. It also included an institutional restructuring and the creation of new common bodies. In line with most other regional organisations on the African continent that followed the so called “second wave of regionalisation” in the 1990’s, the newly restructured Central African Community was given a more open and democratic image. The creation of a common Court of Justice and a Parliamentary Assembly was supposed to give additional dynamic and transparency to the regionalisation process. A major concern was to avoid new deadlocks and bottlenecks similar to those that had slowed or interrupted the previous regionalisation efforts.

However, whereas in other regional communities on the African continent, such as ECOWAS, SADC or EALA, regional Parliamentary Assemblies have already started to work, the set up of the CEMAC Parliament is still in a state of preparation. Despite several repeatedly fixed deadlines, the Assembly is not operational and it remains unclear when it will start to work.


The forerunners: The Federation of Equatorial French Africa (AEF)

CEMAC is often presented as a rather young organisation created in 1994 and operational since the ratification of the treaty by all six members in 1999. However, the historical roots of this regionalisation process can in fact be traced back to the early post-colonial or even colonial period.
Whereas it is indeed possible to find the idea to create and define a Central African region already at the end of the nineteen’s century as part of Germany’s colonial expansionism projects, the first steps towards regional integration have been laid under the French colonial regime. The set up of the Federation of Equatorial French Africa (AEF) in 1919, regrouping Gabon, Middle Congo (now Republic of the Congo), Oubangui-Chari (now Central African Republic), Chad and Cameroon was primarily aimed to facilitate the administration of the Central African territories under French rule. Although AEF was dissolved in 1958 when its members achieved semi-autonomy, the newly independent States resumed the idea of regional cooperation among them in the 1960’s. However, first efforts failed due to lacking commitment and the young States’ uncertainty whether to embrace again any form of heteronomy.


The forerunners: The Central African Customs and Economic Union (UDEAC) 

 The Central African customs and economic union (UDEAC) was created in 1964 by Cameroon, Gabon, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad and the Republic of Congo-Brazzaville and became operational in 1966. Equatorial-Guinea joined the Community in 1984.       
The major purpose of this union was to encourage and facilitate trade among its members. To achieve this goal, the cooperation foresaw the creation of a customs union, with the progressive harmonisation of taxes and duties and the establishment of a common external tariff.

The main achievements of the Union were certainly the realisation of several infrastructure and construction projects, its efforts towards the harmonisation of national fiscal and customs systems as well as the fact that it encouraged the regular meeting and cooperation of the political leaders of the newly established States. However, despite shared common heritage and traditional historical bounds of its members as well as such beneficial circumstances as a common monetary policy built on the Franc CFA, UDEAC’s operational capabilities were considerably poor. Major weakness factors were the lack of commitment from the Member States, financial shortages due to the irregular payment of contributions and the economic crises of the 1980’s. Over the years, the members’ interest in regional policies and activities more and more vanished. The union’s efficiency was progressively compromised by financial problems, lacking communication and cooperation between the members as well as insufficient monitoring of effective implementation of decisions and directives. The decreasing support and commitment made the regionalisation process progressively slow until becoming more or less completely inactive.


The birth of CEMAC

In 1994, in line with the general revival of regionalisation initiatives on the African continent, UDEAC’s Member States decided to give new impetus to their regional cooperation. They agreed to initiate a comprehensive reform process. The subsequently created CEMAC was to replace and improve the customs union. The 1999 ratified N’Djaména Treaty defined as main objectives of the Community to converge and monitor national economic policies, to coordinate sectoral policies and to progressively create a single market. An additional protocol to the treaty addressing the institutional and juridical system of the Community was signed in Libreville, Gabon, in July 1996.


CEMAC structure and decision-making procedures

While building on its predecessor’s structures, CEMAC’s institutional architecture is more complex. In addition to the Executive Secretariat, the Councils of Ministers and the Conference of Heads of State, CEMAC is based on four main institutions: The Monetary Union (UMAC) and the Economic Union (UEAC), the Parliament and the Court of Justice, as well as several regional bodies. Under the common legal framework provided by the N’Djaména Treaty, each of these four institutions is regulated by a specific convention which has the same legal force than the treaty.


The Conference of Heads of State

The main decision making power is given to the members' political leaders, gathered annually in the Conference of Heads of State. The presidency of the Conference is rotating and must be entrusted each year to the Head of State of a different Member State, following alphabetic order. In 2009, the President of CEMAC is the Head of State of the CAR, François Bozizé.

The Conference's main function is to determine the main orientations of the Community and its institutions. It moreover decides upon the admission of new members. It nominates the heads of most Community bodies, such as the Executive Secretary and its deputy, the Governor, Vice-Governor and Secretary General of the BEAC and the directors of all affiliated institutions. Only the Director of the BDEAC is not elected by the Conference of Heads of States but chosen by the Bank’s General Assembly, composed of representatives from the CEMAC Member States, the BEAC and the African Development Banks, as well as from external donors, such as France and Kuwait.

All decisions of the Conference of Heads of State are taken by consensus.


The Monetary and the Economic Union

The Monetary Union UMAC and the Economic Union UEAC present the Community’s two main pillars. They are supposed to guide and root the regionalisation process. UMAC hereby relies on the structure previously set by UDEAC. UMAC’s main institution remains BEAC that issues the common currency Franc CFA and guarantees its stability by defining and managing monetary policies, exchange operations and reserves in Member States. The other core element of the CEMAC community, the economic union UEAC, is currently less advanced and still in a set up process. According to CEMAC’s treaty, a three-step plan is supposed to progressively lead to the establishment of a common market and the set up of the economic union by 2015. This process is expected to go from the harmonisation of national and elaboration of common economic legislations (1999-2004), to the establishment of free movement of goods, services, capital and persons (2005-2009) and to end with a final step to consolidate and evaluate the achieved results (2010-2015. Despite a very comprehensive body of legislations, UEAC’s development has so far been slower than expected. It currently lags behind the plan. The implementation of common legislations on the national level has for instance taken longer than scheduled. Although the end of the second stage is now approaching, the agreement on the free movement of citizens has not been put into reality. Most States still require visa from CEMAC citizens entering their territory. Officially, CEMAC became a free-trade area by the end of 2000. But many tariff and non-tariff barriers still exist and largely explain the low level of intra-regional trade.


The  CEMAC Commission

The main management and administrative body of CEMAC is the Executive Secretariat. With the aim of making it become a stronger and sufficiently independent institution, the Heads of State have decided in 2007 to transform the Secretariat into a Commission. Following the example of the European Union, the Commission is composed by an equal number of Commissioners from each Member State, led by a President and a Vice-President. In June 2008, the First Commission has been appointed with four Commissioners dealing in different policy fields: the common market, infrastructures and sustainable development, human rights and good governance, and economic and monetary policies. Commissioners are appointed by the Conference of Heads of State for a period of four years, renewable for one tem.


The CEMAC Parliament and the Court of Justice

Besides the two unions, the Community Parliament and Court of Justice constitute the other two institutions of CEMAC. The decision to establish them marks a fundamental difference between CEMAC and UDEAC. At least de jure, these institutions present a supranational democratic element that has been absent before.  They seem to break with the intergovernmental tradition of UDEAC.

Composed of a Judicial and an Audit Chamber, the Court of Justice integrates judicial and audit functions. In contrast to the Parliament, the Court is already in place since 2000. It is located in Chad's capital of N’Djaména. Assuming a judicial and an audit function, it is composed of two Chambers, each composed of six judges.   Whereas the Judicial Chamber has to control the respect of the CEMAC treaties and agreements, the Audit Chamber monitors CEMAC’s budget and accounts. Each Chamber is headed by a President, elected among its members. A First President oversees the activities of both Chambers.


The Ministerial Councils

Besides the Conference, there are two Ministerial councils to guide and monitor the implementation of the two unions: the Ministerial Committee in charge of UMAC, and the Council of Ministers for UEAC. Each comprises three Ministers from each Member State and holds meetings twice a year. The main role of these councils is to ensure the direction of the two unions and promote the progressive harmonisation of policies. The UMAC Ministerial Committee in addition supervises the activities of the BEAC, ratifies the Bank’s budget and accounts and examines its annual report. The committee’s members decide by unanimity or by a 5/6 majority. Regarding the UEAC Ministerial Council, decisions are generally taken by consensus, or according to the issue concerned, upon simple or qualified majority.

The annual presidency of both Ministerial councils is assured by the same Member State that is heading the Heads of State’s Conference.


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