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Uganda to host event on Africa trade

The Citizen, Dar Es Salaam

Uganda to host event on Africa trade

By Henry Mukasa, Citizen Correspondent, Kampala

18 October 2008

The tripartite summit, which starts on Saturday with a meeting of permanent secretaries, will bring together member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The three blocs comprise 26 countries with a total population of over half a billion people and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $624 billion.

They range from highly developed countries such as Seychelles, which has an annual income of $16,000 per person, over countries in the medium development category like Uganda ($1,450 per person), to countries in the low development category such as the DR Congo ($700).

"Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Lesotho and South Africa have already confirmed.

But the official invitations were only sent out last week and we continue to receive confirmations as we speak," said media coordinator Suubi Kiwanuka.

The 26 countries make up half of the African Union in terms of membership, and almost 60% in terms of population and contribution to GDP.

The summit under the theme: Deepening Comesa-EAC-SADC integration, to be held at the Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo, will discuss economic and trade liberalisation and trading arrangements among the three communities.

The leaders will also tackle infrastructure development and connectivity in terms of energy, railways, roads, and Information and communication technology.

In addition, the heads of state will debate how to promote free movement of people, starting with business people, among the three communities.

The three regional communities are considered building blocs to the African Economic Community and the African Union the continent is striving for.

They are already implementing regional integration programmes in trade and economic development, through the establishment of free trade areas, customs unions, a monetary union and common markets.

One of the main challenges facing the three blocs is the overlapping membership.

Four member states of the East African Community, including Uganda, are also members of Comesa.

Tanzania, on the other hand, is not a member of Comesa but belongs to SADC.

This has led to the recognition by the three groups of the need to coordinate and harmonise their regional integration programmes.

The main aim of the summit is to agree on a road map for creating a pan-regional free trade area.