Looking at Africa through an Economic-Lens

Entrepreneurs are building Africa’s economic future. As they build the future economies we believe they are transcending borders and contributing to economies, not just nation-states. Therefore, this Award focuses on Africa’s six economic zones, more than its 54 countries.

Our rationale is that the economic zone breakdown provides a relevant view into the economic, cultural, and fiscal windows of the continent. These economic zones are determined by the African Union and facilitate trade and currency agreements between member nations. Economic zone memberships typically represent nations with linguistic, religious, colonial, and geographical similarities. To learn more about each of the economic zones, check out the regional spotlight stories below:

The six economic zones are as follows (listed in order of geographic location from North to South):

  • Arab Maghreb Union (UMA),
  • Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS),
  • Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA),
  • Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC),
  • South African Development Community (SADC), and
  • Southern African Customs Union (SACU).


The African Entrepreneurship Award acknowledges that there are certain variations within these zones, as well as additional economic zones in Africa. For example, some countries are part of multiple economic zones, and AEA omits other economic zones. AEA does not use these economic zone delineations to make financial decisions regarding the Award.