Hettan och torkan gör att det ständigt är brist på vatten i flyktinglägret Daadab i Kenya. Kvinnor och barn väntar på en vattenleverans.

Somali women wait for a water delivery in the Daadab refugee camp in Kenya.

Photo: Gry Hjeltnes/Sida


Regional cooperation in Africa

Updated: 8 April 2015

During the 2000s, economic growth in Africa has increased and democracy has been strengthened, with free elections held in several countries. Despite the significant natural resource assets, poverty is widespread. Prerequisites for poverty alleviation are best created at national level. However, management of regional resources involve several countries, which requires regional cooperation.

Peace and stability in the region is a prerequisite for development and poverty reduction. Democratic governance is also crucial for a state to be well-functioning. Armed conflicts often involve serious regional implications with streams of refugees and increased migration. This in turn creates other social problems with depletion of natural resources such as arable land, water and minerals.

Sida is working with regional African efforts to assist various players with the challenges that many countries share, and to address a need for co-ordination of efforts between countries. Sida’s support includes regional efforts such as the sustainable use of cross-border natural resources, peace and stability, trade, migration and stopping the spread of infectious diseases.

Close co-operation with African organisations is one of the foundations of Sweden’s efforts to create peace and security. By improving regional organisations’ ability to prevent and handle conflicts, they can provide support and be a platform for dialogue that brings countries closer and contribute to a sustainable regional intervention. The regional players (see list below) also have an important role in facilitating trade, especially through harmonizing different countries’ regulatory frameworks and reducing obstacles to trade. Civil society is another important partner.

Sub-Saharan Africa - our most important focus

The countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have the highest proportion of poor people. Over one third of Africa's population is estimated to be malnourished. At the same time, these countries are hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic. The disease is spread across national borders, which makes regional cooperation around prevention and therapeutic work necessary to stop the spread of infection. The number of people affected by HIV/AIDS puts a large strain on health systems. The effects of the disease hit both individuals and single countries hard, but also the whole region’s economy and prospects. The number of newly infected people in the region was 1.5 million in 2011, representing a decrease of 22 per cent in recent years, though the problems are still large. Sweden's contribution to UNAIDS’ regional offices has contributed to more than 13 million people getting an HIV-test in two years and to 429,483 people infected with HIV getting access to antiretroviral drugs in South Africa (2012).

Democracy work in North Africa 

In North Africa and the Middle East, the overarching objectives for development cooperation are the strengthening of democracy and human rights as well as sustainable development. Relatively democratic elections have been conducted in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya (with the help of Swedish support), and freedom of expression and freedom of association have in many ways increased in recent years. But the trend is far from straight forward and human rights abuses are still taking place. There is a risk that the democratic development will lead to a return to governance that allows restrictions on freedom of expression and women's rights. The dominance of religious conservatives among many of the countries' elected representatives also favours such a change. The hopes that the Arab uprising would have a positive effect on peace and democracy in the rest of Africa have not been fulfilled.

Water and climate cross-border issues

African leaders see increased integration and cooperation as a necessity to manage and promote Africa’s development, which has resulted in several regional institutions emerging since the 1990s. Water and forest ecosystems are examples of transboundary natural resources where it is important to promote a fair and sustainable use. Most of Africa's rivers are shared by at least two countries, and about 77 per cent of Africa's population lives in transboundary river catchments.

Climate change threatens to hit hard on agriculture and increase the pressure on natural resources. It is important to protect the quality of Africa’s many shared water resources and to promote fair and sustainable usage of these. It is equally important to prevent overgrazing and farming in ecologically sensitive areas in order to stop desertification.

Initiatives to stop the spread of HIV and mitigate the consequences of AIDS have long been a priority for Sida. The disease is spreading across national borders, and regional co-operation with prevention and treatment guidelines is therefore necessary to halt the spread of infection.

Sida also provides support to regional research institutions to strengthen the region’s research capacity in this field. This support is also designed to give researchers the opportunity to develop their studies and share their results throughout the entire continent. Most major universities in Africa are part of the regional networks that Sweden supports.

In addition to the countries in which Sweden carries out long-term development cooperation, we support many other countries. Our Annual Report 2012 states how much money has been disbursed and where.

Sida’s most important regional partners: 

The African Union (AU) has a vision of creating an integrated and peaceful Africa, driven by its citizens. It actively works to construct a strong partnership between governments, segments of the civil society, women, young people and the private sector to achieve solidarity and unity among all citizens in Africa. Sida has long been supporting the AU and the main focus for Sweden’s co-operation has been on strengthening its work concerned with: peace and security, democracy and human rights, trade and economic co-operation, as well as institutional capacity building. All African states apart from Morocco are members.

The East African Community (EAC) has a vision of a successful, competitive, safe and politically united East Africa. Its goal is to broaden and deepen economic, political and social integration to improve the quality of life of all citizens in East Africa. Principal areas of co-operation between Sweden and the EAC are the Lake Victoria initiative, democracy and human rights work and capacity building. The EAC consists of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

The vision of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is to promote co-operation and integration within economic, social and cultural activities, which will eventually lead to the establishment of an economic monetary union with total integration of the member states’ national economies. The principal areas that Sida supports in its co-operation with ECOWAS are conflict prevention, creating economic integration, common infrastructure and sharing natural resources between member states, as well as institutional capacity building. Its members are 15 countries in West Africa.

The Southern Africa Development Coomunity (SADC) has a vision of creating a regional society that can ensure economic well-being, improve the standard of living, quality of life, freedom, social justice, peace and security for all citizens in southern Africa. The principal areas that Sida supports are the creation of economic integration, human rights, democracy, gender equality, the fight against HIV/AIDS and conflict prevention. The SADC has 15 member states in eastern and southern Africa.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is a regional economic organisation that brings together the countries of the Horn of Africa: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Somalia. IGAD is striving to become the premier regional organisation for peace, prosperity and regional integration. Historically, the organisation has mostly worked with drought and other natural disasters, but today IGAD has expanded its operations in the areas of peace and security, food security, infrastructure and economic integration.

Sweden supports IGAD's efforts to renew and strengthen its role as the principal intergovernmental organisation in the Horn of Africa. IGAD has an important role to play in the many on-going conflicts in the region, such as in Sudan, Somalia and the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Page owner: Department for Africa

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