As African Union (AU) member states prepare for the scheduled mid-year coordination meeting between the AU Bureau and regional economic communities (RECs), initially planned for early July, RECs are increasingly coordinating their efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. This has had mixed results because of the challenge of translating decisions into action, and because RECs do not seem to have adequately communicated their strategies to the African public. In some cases, RECs have also chosen to defer to the continental action taken by AU Chairperson President Cyril Ramaphosa rather than duplicating efforts such as creating special COVID-19 funds.
Buhari leading ECOWAS responses
In West Africa, both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA, composed of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Togo) have taken action to coordinate efforts to address the spread of COVID-19 and its consequences.
ECOWAS held a virtual extraordinary summit of heads of state on COVID-19 on 23 April 2020, and designated President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria as the champion to coordinate its efforts. The strategy essentially revolved around putting in place regional mechanisms to create linkages among the scientific communities in each country and exchange good practices related to fighting the pandemic. ECOWAS decided not to create a special fund but rather endow the one that had been set up by the AU in early April, following a meeting of the bureau convened by Ramaphosa.