The Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) is an African regional international organisation made up of 6 Central African countries. CEMAC reincarnated from UDEAC, Central African Customs and Economic Union and its headquarters are in Bangui, Central African Republic. It is made up of 6 Central African countries.
The six CEMAC countries:
- CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
- EQUATORIAL GUINEA
Added to the fact that these countries share a similar geographical region and history, their economies are significantly distinctive:
firstly, with a combined number of about 51 million, the population of the region is relatively small compared to other regional bodies in Africa;
secondly, historically this region has undergone a very low increase in per capita incomes and made little or no effort to reduce poverty levels;
lastly, countries in this region rely heavily on oil and several other natural resources.
The CEMAC region is made up of approximately 51 million people with varying population densities. Chad and the Central African Republic are landlocked countries in the region. In comparison to other sub-regions in the rest of Africa however, the CEMAC region has the smallest population size.
The other five countries are largely tropical regions while Chad is the only Sahelian country within the region. Chad runs across the Sahara desert, as well as the Sahel and Sudan areas.
The CEMAC region is has a wide range of agricultural products and untapped minerals. The Republic of Congo on the other hand is home to the world’s second largest forest and great water reserves. However, the region remains the least developed on the continent in terms of infrastructures, transport, energy, and technology, all of which serve as challenges to production and socio-economic development in the region.
Even though French is the common language in the CEMAC region, the inhabitants of the region consist of a wide diversity in ethnicity. The characteristic of a wide diversity in ethnicity is common to most West African countries but uncommon in Central Africa, which often serves as a challenge in its integration process. However, there are certain ethnic groups that are present in several countries in the region such as the Fang, the Bantu and semi-Bantu, and the Tuareg tribes.
This ethnic diversity, more than posing an integration challenge, has often resulted in instability in the region. To maintain peace and stability, some Central African states came together in Yaoundé, Cameroon in 1994 and adopted a pact of non-aggression and went forth to form an institution in 1999 in Yaound known as the Council for Peace and Security in Central Africa (COPAX).
Central Africa is richly blessed with natural resources such as petroleum, gold, tin, bauxite, uranium, timber, and iron ore. Furthermore, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon are known to be among Africa’s top ten oil producers; however, its approximately 51 million people remain one of the poorest in the world. Despite the vast possession of natural resources and similar colonial grouping, movement across this region is quite challenging due to their lack of natural trade routes, making them relatively isolated from one another. Additionally, the recurrent water-borne diseases and desertification in the region (mostly in Chad) acts as a challenge to food production.
CEMAC shares its borders with all other regions on the continent, making the organisation very important:
- In the West by ECOWAS and CEN-SAD;
- In the East by EAC, COMESA, IGAD and CEN-SAD;
- In the South by SADC; and
- In the North by the Arab countries.
The history of CEMAC
CEMAC was born from a treaty signed in N’Djaména (Chad) on March 16, 1994 and went into force 5 years after in June 1999.
CEMAC is comprised of the Central African Monetary Union or l’Union Monetaire de l’Afrique Centrale (UMAC), which brings together member states with the common FCFA currency, and the Central African Economic Union or l’Union Economique de L’Afrique Centrale (UEAC), which harmonises economic regulations in the Member States with the goal of boosting trade and facilitating the unity of economic policies within the sub-region.
Briefly, this is the evolution that resulted in the existence of CEMAC:
- On June 29, 1959, the Equatorial Customs Union (UDE) was created;
- In 1961 the State of Cameroon Joined the EDU;
- On December 8, 1964, by the signing of the treaty in Brazzaville, the Customs and Economic Union of Central Africa (UDEAC) was established;
- On August 24, 1983, Equatorial Guinea joined the UDEAC;
- On March 16, 1994, a new treaty signed in N’Djamena in Chad gave birth to the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC);
- In June 1999, The treaty signed in 1994 establishing the CEMAC came into force;
- In 2010, the idea of rotation of the first leaders of the Institutions whose mandate is of 5 years non-renewable was introduced;
- In October 2017, all CEMAC member states signed a circular establishing the free movement of people and goods in the CEMAC area for all nationals of the community.
The CFA Franc Zone
The CEMAC region of Africa is one of the two CFA zones in Africa. Prior to independence, economic unions were created by the French in the Central and Western parts of Africa which were under their rule. The Afrique Occidentale Française (AOF) is the first of such unions established in 1898 by bringing together Senegal, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, the Sudan (now Mali), Dahomey (now Benin), Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Mauritania, and Niger. Later in 1910, the Afrique Equatoriale Française (AEF) was created bringing together Chad, Oubangi-Chari (now Central African Republic), Congo, and Gabon.
Cameroon however was quite distinct in the sense that it was ruled by both Britain and France, and the aforementioned colonies later gained their independence around 1962 thereby ending all previous arrangements with France and becoming a country in their own rights.
The CFA was earlier used to refer to the Colonies Française Africaine prior to independence and a franc arrangement was done which saw the implementation of a single currency for certain French colonies in Africa. This currency was employed in the mid-1940s as a way of preventing the need for currency stability and preserving the exchange rates between the AEF and AOF zones and the dollar during a time when the French franc was devalued at the final stage of the Second World War.
After the Second World War; two issuance houses were established and tasked with supervising this currency. However, after independence, the institutions remained operational and were led by France. Nonetheless, the initial meaning of the CFA was changed by the Central African countries to refer to the Coopération Financière Africaine and renamed in West Africa as the Communauté Financière Africaine. Despite the fact that these French colonies ceased all politico institutional ties with France after independence, one economic institution persisted in the form of the CFA franc.
Today, the main members of the CFA franc zone are France and the two economic and monetary unions in Africa which were established from BCEAO and BEAC. The currency gave them an advantage over other regions on the continent in the sense that through the economic crisis in the mid-1980s, the economies using the CFA franc experienced higher growth in real GDP and a lower inflation rate, while developing greater macroeconomic imbalances as opposed to other economies in the sub-Saharan region.
Contrary to other African countries, the two CFA zones hold a high level of similarity and the CFA monetary unions and institutions governing these zones remain significantly tied to their French colonial power until recently, 29 June 2019, when the leaders of BCEAO made a move to drop the CFA for the “eco”. The Central African CFA Franc (XAF) remained highly pegged firstly to the French franc and now to the euro at XAF 655.96 per euro which emphasises the benefits of a fixed exchange rate highlighted by Mundell.
The two zones hold biannual meetings with each other and together with France in order to discuss their economic performances and policies or institutions which need to be implemented in order to maximize the economic outcome.
With the view of enhancing economic integration within the sub-region and between the two CFA Franc zones, leaders of these sub-regions came together in Port Louis, Mauritius in October 1993 to set up a common customs policy called the Organisation for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA). This policy consists of business laws and institutions that are aimed at enhancing economic growth in the two regions, encouraging the dissemination of good governance, and promoting domestic and international trade through foreign direct investments. This policy reflected the need and vision of these sub-regions to form an economically integrated sub-region which will encourage the harmonisation of policies and could be emulated by other sub-regional economic blocks, thereby leading to a continental policy for the economic integration of Africa.
The Reason Behind A Central African Economic Integration
The creation of CEMAC was a very significant milestone in the regional integration process in Central Africa and was based on the ideas of promoting regional integration and the effectiveness of policies throughout the region. Upon its creation, CEMAC set out to promote trade, establish a Central African common market and unite the inhabitants of the CEMAC region. The rationale behind the economic integration of Central African states is mostly founded on such assumptions as:
- Economic integration will usher greater regional development and a way through which the regional economy will be integrated into the global economic system thereby giving it more economic power in the international arena;
- Economic integration will increase the level of private-sector investment, as well as the standards of living of the average population, and transform the region;
- Economic integration has a positive impact on the gross national product of all its member states through an increase in the size of the markets, the efficiency of institutions within member states, and an increase in economies of scale;
- Viner’s customs union theory suggests that the elimination of tariffs through integration will not only increase the market size but it will also lead to trade creation and increase the degree of trade that occurs within the region;
- Historically, integration in Central Africa goes way back to colonial times and as such, any current integration is seen as continuity to their shared historical and colonial past;
- Furthermore, economic integration in the region is seen as a platform to promote the political and socio-economic stability and development of both the member states and their citizens through an increase in regional trade, cooperation, and levels of self-reliance.
The Formation Of CEMAC
CEMAC is considered to be one of the oldest regional agreements in Africa and is consisted of six countries within the Central African region: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. Earlier efforts to create economic cooperation and integration within the region goes as far back as the French colonial times and in recent times, the members jointly established an economic and monetary union in 1994 which was later ratified in 1999 with the aims of strengthening the existing customs and monetary union existing which were put in place during colonisation.
Prior to gaining independence from French colonial rule, the Union Douanière Équatoriale (UDE) was formed in 1959 by the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Chad. Later in 1960, the countries which made up the AEF came together to form the Union de Républiques de l’Afrique Centrale which was later dissolved when these countries gained independence.
However, despite gaining independence from France, the UDE remained as a functioning institution with Cameroon joining in 1961, and on December 8, 1964, the five countries of the UDE met in Brazzaville ( in the Republic of Congo) to establish the Union Douanière et Économique de l’Afrique Centrale (UDEAC).
Formed under the Brazzaville Treaty, the UDEAC was created with aim of forming a customs union that would promote economic integration among its members and facilitate free trade between member states while implementing a common external tariff on imported factors of production from nonmember countries. In terms of external trade, three different levies of import were adopted by all member states under the UDEAC treaty: an import duty, an entry duty, and a duty on import turnover.
Additionally, the fourth kind of levy known as the complementary tax was determined and implemented individually by each member state. However, the UDEAC treaty never enforced a common external tariff as it did on regional trade in the form of a single tax regime which was established in 1965. This tax regime was aimed at liberalising trade within the region and countries such as Cameroon regularized their trade based on the provisions of this regime.
Following the economic crisis which occurred in the late 1980s and 1990, the member states of UDEAC became highly concerned with a vision to establish a customs union and the need to create a more efficient integration initiative. Having the establishment of a customs union as a set goal, the UDEAC formed several infrastructures and projects towards the creation of a harmonised fiscal and customs arrangement. Equatorial Guinea later joined this institution in 1983, officially becoming the sixth member of UDEAC.
Because of the disagreements within the group, Chad and the Central African Republic threatened to leave the UDEAC but failed to follow through with their threats after much pressure from France.
Consequently, in a bid to address these misunderstandings, the UDEAC Treaty was officially revised in 1975. This joint action was strengthened by two monetary cooperation agreements between UDEAC member states and France which were signed in November 1972. These agreements paved the way for a the creation of a common central bank (Banque des Etats de l’Afrique Centrale – BEAC) and single currency known as the Franc de la Coopération Financière en Afrique – Franc CFA).
Nonetheless, the lack of free movement of factors of production and lack of finances, cooperation, communication, and commitment from member states posed major challenges to the organisation and in order to rectify this, there was a debate regarding the establishment of a new institution which would reinforce economic, monetary and financial integration.
UDEAC member states, therefore, went on to sign a treaty to create an economic union that was aimed at promoting the regional integration process through the establishment of a monetary union with the use of the Central Africa CFA franc as the single currency.
As a result of this, in March 1994 the UDEAC was replaced by CEMAC in N’Djamena, Chad in line with the revival of economic and social integration ventures which were sweeping across the continent. The 1994 reforms which occurred under UDEAC introduced “a common external tariff, the gradual removal of tariffs on intra-regional trade, the harmonization of indirect taxation, and the replacement of quantitative import barriers by temporary import surcharges”.
In 1999, CEMAC officially came into existence following its ratification and adoption of an action plan under the Malabo Declaration.
THE OBJECTIVES OF CEMAC
CEMAC was established as a means to create a more defined and dominant integration initiative that will not only promote the harmonious socio-economic and cultural development of all its member states but will do so with the goal of creating a true common Central African market.
With a vision to promote the harmonization of development of all member states, CEMAC is aimed at implementing a multilateral system of member states’ economic policies, harmonising policies in various sectors, and creating a common Central African market that would enable the free movement of factors of production.
The CEMAC organisation is also aimed at promoting regional stability and cooperation, raising the living standards of the inhabitants of the region, and creating a regional environment that is conducive for investments both local and international, all of which will contribute to the general development of the African continent.
Therefore in order to achieve these aims, CEMAC proposes the following objectives under the banner of the UMAC and UEAC:
- to harmonise trade regulations and economic policies of all member states in order to help reduce intra-regional trade barriers;
- to implement a common external tariff and increase economic and financial competition;
- to establish a common market based on the free movement of factors of production within the region; and
- to create a sovereign and independent financing mechanism for the CEEAC organisation.
Some CEMAC facts (source: CEMAC Commission 2015):
- Combined population (estimate): 51 million;
- Area: 3,020,144 Km2
- Population growth rate: 2.9%
- Economic growth rate: 2.8%
- GDP / Hbt growth rate: -0.1%
- Main export products: Crude oil, Cocoa, Coffee, Cotton fiber, Timber logs, Sawn timber, Aluminum, Natural rubber, Banana, Diamond, Gold, Manganese, Uranium, Methanol.
- Inflation rate: 2.3%
The CEMAC Anthem:
The CEMAC anthem was adopted by Regulation No. 13/00 / CEMAC-045-CM-04, for the promotion of the Community.
Sous le ciel de l’Afrique Centrale
Des flambeaux se sont allumés
Pour chasser les nuits ténébreuses
De la misère, de la pauvreté.
La CEMAC est notre force,
Le cheval de notre bataille.
Debout ! Debout pour la victoire !
Les coqs chanteront sur nos toits !
Tam-tams, crépités forts !
Griots, chantez avec brios !
La main dans la main, pour gagner le combat,
Dans la lumière, la concorde, et l’avenir sera plus beau !
The CEMAC logo:
The CEMAC logo was established on July 21, 2000 by Regulation No. 12/00 / CEMAC-045-CM-04 for the promotion of the Community with the following explanations:
• The rising forces towards the star represent the solidarity and combined efforts of the CEMAC countries to achieve their goals.
• The star symbolizes the influence of CEMAC on Africa.
• The fins are the crowning achievement of CEMAC’s efforts at the African and global levels.
The CEMAC flag:
The flag of CEMAC was established on July 21, 2000 by Regulation No. 14/00 / CEMAC-045-CM-04 for the promotion of the Community. He’s from :
• Yellow color, common to the flags of the five countries;
• Struck in the middle, with the logo, the dominant color of which is green, the color common to the flags of the five countries of the community.
The Organisational Framework of CEMAC
CEMAC is considered to be one of the most structured of all African RECs and is built on several policies and measures which have been put in place to promote regional economic and financial integration among all member states. Although CEMAC adopted some of the institutional structures from its predecessor UDEAC, the current architecture of CEMAC is argued to be more complicated.
While the CEMAC Treaty identifies the UEAC, UMAC, the Parliament, and Court of Justice as the main institutions to promote the harmonisation of member states, other principal organs were created to help achieve CEMAC’s objectives. These include:
- the CEMAC Commission,
- the Councils of Ministers,
- the Conference of Heads of State,
- the Ministerial Committee,
- the Executive Secretariat,
- the Inter-State Committee,
- COBAC and
- the Institution de Financement du Developpement.
The CEMAC’s Conference of Heads of States
The Conference of Heads of States is the greatest body of the Community and consists of political leaders of CEMAC member states who are known to be the highest decision-making power of the institution. They act by means of supplementary acts and often come together yearly to discuss regional and institutional issues, as well as the granting of access to new members.
The Conference of Heads of State also determines the policies which govern the Community, as well as the actions of the UEAC and UMAC structures. With a consensus guiding every decision taken at the conferences, the heads of other organs within the institution are elected at these conferences, however, the Banque de Développement des Etats de l’Afrique Centrale (BDEAC) remains the only exception.
The UEAC and UMAC
The UEAC and UMAC are considered to be the organisation’s two main pillars and they have clearly outlined missions.
The l’Union Economique de L’Afrique Centrale (UEAC) is headed by the Council of Ministers and confined to at most three representatives from each member state.
The Council of Ministers meets twice every year under the direction of the Council’s president and acts by means of regulations, directives, decisions, and recommendations or opinions. However, in cases where the issues to be discussed include matters other than political economy and finances, the Council invites the relevant ministers to discuss these issues provided that all representatives from a member state are limited to three.
The l’Union Monetaire de l’Afrique Centrale (UMAC) on the other hand is run by the Ministerial Committee which is made up of two ministers from each member state and delegated by the Minister of Finance. This Committee is headed by a president who is appointed annually and the Committee remains heavily reliant on the structures of the UDEAC such as the Banque des Etats de l’Afrique Centrale (BEAC) which issues the common Central African Franc CFA currency and implements the monetary policy of the organisation.
The CEMAC’s Court of Justice
The community’s Court of Justice is made up of a judicial chamber (chambre judiciaire) and an auditing chamber (chambre des comptes). This Court of Justice is not only responsible for issues related to compliance, but also regulates CEMAC accounts and its audit, legalizes Treaties, and settles disputes which are under its jurisdiction and that of the Parliament.
The CEMAC Parliament
The Parliament on the other hand was elected in 2004 following an Interparliamentary Commission which was formed in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in June 2000 and is in charge of regulating the regional institutions, with aims of promoting regional integration at a political level.
The CEMAC Commission
Following its transformation in 2007 from the Executive Secretariat, the CEMAC Commission was created by the Heads of State on the framework of the EU Commission as a body that will strengthen the CEMAC organisation.
With its headquarters in Bangui, Central Africa Republic, this Commission is made up of an equal number of representatives known as Commissioners from each CEMAC member state and is led by a President of the Commission and his vice. This Commission is also known to be the multilateral surveillance mechanism set in place to supervise the macroeconomic policies of the organisation and this is accomplished by the Presidency of the Commission.
The Economic Climate of CEMAC
The economic climate of the CEMAC region has seen a considerable rise as compared to the 90s and 80s. Individually, countries like Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea are doing quite fine compared with the other countries like Chad and the Central African Republic.
Economic theories like the Mundell’s OCA suggest that the implementation of a single currency increases trade and commercial exchanges between member states but it is not the case with the CEMAC region. Trade within the CEMAC countries only amounts to about 0.8 percent of its total trade meanwhile its trade with the ECOWAS and the rest of Africa is significantly higher (1.4 percent and 3.2 percent respectively. Its trade with the EU is a whopping 40 percent of all exports and 60 percent of all imports.
The weak trade within the CEMAC zone could be a result of the trade tariffs that exist in the region hence defeating the purpose of the economic integration.
The Fiscal Policies In The CEMAC Zone
The Central African Banking Commission (COBAC) was created in the early 1990s to improve the management and efficiency of the monetary and financial sectors. Although the main aim of the exchange rates and monetary policies in the CEMAC zone has been to maintain a fixed nominal exchange rate and prevent any kind of volatility, the BEAC’s monetary reforms have shifted from direct to more market-based controls.
CEMAC member states have been encouraged to support several policy objectives. According to Mpatswe et al. (2011), “these policy objectives are translated into convergence criteria, which include achieving a nonnegative basic fiscal balance, maintaining total debt below 70 percent, non-accumulation of domestic and external arrears, and annual inflation of no more than 3 percent”.
There also exists a multilateral surveillance mechanism that has been put in place by the organisation to supervise macroeconomic and financial reforms, and harmonize legal systems in order to strengthen CEMAC’s monetary and financial process.
Fiscal policies in the CEMAC region are also individually conducted by each member state.
Although this strategy could very well pose a problem in the future, these countries have acknowledged that the effectiveness of such national fiscal policies needs macroeconomic surveillance and in March 1993, a multilateral surveillance mechanism was established to advance macroeconomic convergence and supervise these fiscal policies.
This mechanism was broadly created on the framework of the EU’s Maastricht criteria and acted as a platform for a greater multilateral surveillance model. In August 2001, the CEMAC Council of Ministers went on to promote macroeconomic convergence four macroeconomic indicators were established as a guide to this supervision which included: “
(i) the primary budget balance / GDP ratio must be zero and above;
(ii) the national debt / GDP ratio should not exceed 70 percent;
(iii) new arrears, internal and external, must not be accumulated; and
(iv) the average annual inflation rate should not exceed 3 percent”.
However, the current structure of the CEMAC monetary union is far from fulfilling the conditions required for the successful convergence of macroeconomic policies:
- Firstly, trade policy implementations have been predominantly stalled and there is very limited movement of factors of production with the region and intra-regional trade is significantly low.
- Also, the degree of openness and transparency in the CEMAC zone markets is low, and because of the heavy reliance on oil as a source of revenue in the region, product diversification is low.
- Additionally, fiscal policy integration in the region is quite limited and its inflation convergence is significantly low.
The Political Climate of CEMAC
Although poor governance still remains a major challenge in the region and within regional institutions, membership in the CEMAC organisation seems to have boosted governance indicators in most member states, with control of corruption, rule of law, and political stability experiencing a boost in Cameroon from 1996-2020.
Also, although governance seems to have improved across countries in the region, the rivalry between Cameroon and Gabon poses a political threat to the stability and integration of the region. Cameroon is the largest economy in the region and the presence of oil reserves in Gabon has given the country a significant level of economic and political stability.
In addition, Gabon has mediated several regional conflicts and this has increased its competition with Cameroon for the region’s leadership position. Also, although the political stability indicator seems to have increased across many of the member states, internal conflicts within these CEMAC countries have always been a menace to regional integration because not only do these conflicts affect the country within which they are taking place, but effects of these conflicts also spill over to neighbouring countries.
The Monetary union
CEMAC has seen the successful creation of the monetary union.
With regards to economic integration, the free-trade zone and the Customs union are already a reality, enabling CEMAC to be a space of free movement of goods, services, people, and capital. Since May 2015, CEMAC nationals were to benefit from free movement in the region and no longer be required to use a visa to travel between CEMAC countries, while having to present an identity document at the borders. The common market is also underway and four countries are involved.
Poorly used and untapped resources
The CEMAC region has a wide range of agricultural products and untapped natural resources. Even when these resources are exploited, they are not done transparently which leaves much to be desired. With the region rich in minerals, water reserves, and dense forests, it is the least developed in the continent in relation to infrastructures, transport, energy, and technology.
Limited accessibility to each other
Despite the vast possession of natural resources and similar colonial grouping, movement across this region is quite challenging due to their lack of natural trade routes, making them relatively isolated from one another. The CEMAC region is characterized by a very poor road network which makes it hard for proper economic integration.
The CEMAC has security as a primordial goal for economic development to come about. Insecurity goes to hinder much in the projections of CEMAC. Insecurity along the CEMAC borders caused by Boko Haram hailing from northern Nigeria and political upheaval in the Central African Republic has a waterfall effect on CEMAC as seen in the next point.
Partial freedom of movement
This freedom of movement was initially scheduled to start on January 1, 2014, but was delayed by the closure of Equatorial Guinea’s borders. If free movement within the whole of the space is not yet possible, it is above all because of the various security crises in the sub-region, first and foremost signaling the insurgency triggered by Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin.
However, Chad and Cameroon have taken the lead and established the free movement of goods and people between the two states through a bilateral agreement, which could help matters.
At the Djobloho summit on February 17, 2017, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon indeed committed to lifting all the restrictions that still exist.
Falling oil prices
All of the CEMAC countries being oil producers, the falling oil prices resulted in a budget revenue cut of about 50%. This stifles economic growth as planned.
The obsolete CFA Franc
The urgency of reforming the Franc CFA led to the extraordinary summit of CEMAC on November 22, 2019, in Yaoundé, chaired by Paul Biya. After the countries of the Franc zone in West Africa, it is the turn of Central Africa to question the relevance of a currency with foreign exchange reserves deposited in France referred by some as ” inherited from colonization ”.
It is interesting to note that France gave their consent that they are ready to reform the Franc CFA.
On December 28, 2019, the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, paid a visit to Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire and during the press point at the end of this meeting, they declared that they did discuss the reform of the Franc CFA just as it was done in the Uemoa zone. In fact, the President of Equatorial Guinea declared that the Franc CFA was “obsolete”.
Rivalry inside the organization
There is a frequent rivalry between Cameroon and Gabon. Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea have border conflicts that have experienced frequent skirmishes between the army of the two countries. Equatorial Guinea has frequently closed its borders with Cameroon and Gabon. All this rivalry and conflicts within the region is a big challenge for regional integration.