Strengthening international health co-operation in Africa through the regional economic communities
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The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are the pillars of the African Union (AU), and have been recognized by the AU as the key vehicles for economic integration and cooperation in Africa. The 2003 Session of the AU Conference of African Ministers of Health (CAMH) considered and adopted, inter alia, recommendations on a proposal to establish Health and Social Affairs Desks within the RECs. The 2003 Maputo Session of the Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government duly endorsed the Report of the Ministers and their recommendations. This paper represents an attempt to assess the extent to which the 2003 decision of CAMH has been implemented. It also argues that regional integration and cooperation should not be geared solely towards economic, trade or political purposes (but to the social sector as well), and proposes a set of criteria as useful starting points for determining which social (i.e. health) activities can be undertaken at the regional and sub-regional levels. Finally, it also proposes various programmatic options to be considered in strengthening the roles of the RECs in regional integration and cooperation in the social sector (in the context of NEPAD), as Health Desks are established within the RECs.