Lesotho wants free trade area by 2008, customs union by 2010

Lusaka - 16/08/2007

Panapress

Lesotho wants Free Trade Area by 2008, Customs Union by 2010

From Lewis Mwanangombe PANA Correspondent

Zambia - Outgoing chair for SADC, President Pakalitha Mosisili of Lesotho observed that more work still remains to "finalise the road map on the scaling up of the regional economic integration agenda".

"It is critical that socio economic progress not only be seen, but be felt by our citizens who have waited, for so long, for the quality of their lives to be uplifted," he told SADC heads of state and government summit opening Thursday at Mulungushi International conference Centre in Lusaka.

He noted that the deepening of regional integration can only be realised, if adequate and cost effective infrastructure is in place.

He specifically called on member states of SADC to quickly address their key obligations at national level, to ensure that the region realises the Free Trade Area by 2008 and a Customs Union by 2010, in preparation for the creation of a Common Market by 2015 and a common currency by 2018.

Mosisili, however, took note of the major problems that still face the region, particularly in the area of food security, HIV/AIDS pandemic and low economic growth rates.

"Many of our citizens still live on less than a dollar a day. We should seek to achieve our overarching objective of poverty reduction through deepening our integration, global competitiveness and export- led growth," he said.

He observed that SADC should, for now, focus more than ever on market integration and all efforts should be taken that add value to regional integration.

Before Mosisili officially opened the summit, SADC secretariat had given prizes to three Zambian school children that wrote the best essays on activities of the grouping.

Three other prizes went to three more secondary school students from member countries that had excelled in another essay writing competition.

Diana Kawenda scooped the first prize of US$1,500 for writing the best essay which she rid much to the delight of both invited guests and heads of state present.

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