African Press International (API)

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Posted by African Press International on October 31, 2007

jaduong-leo.jpg< By our correspondent Leo Odera Omolo


31/10/07 API/APN in Kisumu, Kenya: Leaders of the East African Community (EAC) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) are planning a summit that will lay the foundation of co-operation between the two regional economic blocs.

The planned summit is also supported by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). This was recently disclosed by COMESA Secretary General Erustus Mwencha, who said the summit participants will discuss ways of co-operation and possible rationalization of the regional economic bloc.

Mr. Mwencha did not elaborate nor gave details of agenda or date of the event. But only hinted that the summit will take place soon.

The process of co-operation has started and will take into account political sensitivities, he said.

Stressing that the rationalization of regional economic communities should be able to assist the continent to resolve some of the problems and challenges it is facing in terms of resources dispersion and inability to consolidate the gains of regional integration.

Mwencha a Kenyan who has been at the helm of COMESA after following in the footsteps of his predecessor Mr. Bingu wa Mutharika a Malawian who later became the President of Malawi also revealed that his organization is at the moment encouraging organization such as the World Food Programme to procure food from the region.

He, however, stressed that the EAC member states should concentrate in achieving economic integration, if they are to have a formidable political and eventually competitive bloc.

The most important thing, said Mr. Mwencha is to get the Customs Union to work and to have economic union, which works because at the moment people dont even know what we are talking about. Personally I would like to see a situation where whatever we do will eventually add up to the five steps supposed to be taken to achieve a full EAC, he added.

The three trade blocs, SADC, EAC and COMESA, from Southern and Eastern Africa are moving closer to align and harmonize trade rules for increased integration.

Last June, during te fifth meeting of the Joint Task Force (JTF) held in Zanzibar and attended by delegates of COMESA, SADC and EAC discussed a joint approach to implement regional telecommunication networks based in the COMESA Comtel Project and the SADC Regional Information Infrastructure Project.

The Zanzibar meeting agreed to hold a joint summit of all COMESA, SADC and EAC member states, customs and infrastructure development.

Other signals that the two blocs could be fast pursuing an integration was the announcement by representatives from the EAC, SADC and COMESA mid last year that they had begun consultations aimed at creating one currency and a common Central Bank by 2025.

The COMESA secretariat based in Lusaka, Zambia is already carrying out consultations on the formation of a tripartite task force to oversee the roadmap to a monetary union. It is also holding consultations with a general aim of harmonizing the regions payment system.

A number of Regional Economic Committees have been organized in the various regions of Africa. However, it is now recognized that there are too many regional integration institution, with the resultant overlap of membership and duplication of mandates.

Sources said the forthcoming EAC and SADC summit also aims at resolving Tanzanias position vis-a vis the two blocs, Tanzania belongs to both SADC and the EAC.

There is overlap of membership in economic communities in the Eastern and Southern African regions to an extent unparalleled anywhere else in the world. The overlap has had bearing on the costs and benefits particularly of deeper integration. Moreover, membership in more than on customs union is technically impossible.

As the economic blocs in Eastern and Southern African region union, member states with multiple memberships at present will have to strike the balance of the costs and benefits of belonging to one or another customs union.

Solely concentrating on terrific and revenue foregone will mean missing out on some of the more fundamental aspect of regional integration.

Published by API/APN tel +4793299739 or +4763002525

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