World Bulletin/News Desk
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe inaugurated on Sunday the 34th summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) with a call for the 15 member states to focus on regional integration.
"As SADC, we should not lose sight of our regional integration agenda, our focus and priorities," host Mugabe, who assumed chairmanship of the regional bloc from Malawian counterpart Peter Mutharika, told the opening session.
"We also should not be tempted to introduce or embrace too many programs which in the end we fail to fund from our own resources," he added.
The two-day summit is being held in Zimbabwe's resort town of Victoria Falls.
The leaders will discuss key issues affecting their 15-member grouping, including regional integration, economic cooperation, intra-regional trade and Ebola scare.
SADC is a 15-member regional grouping that aims to promote sustainable and equitable socio-economic development in southern Africa.
It is managed by a Troika that comprises the current, the incoming and the immediate previous SADC summit chairpersons.
Prior to the 34th summit, SADC troika was made up of current chair President Mutharika, incoming chair President Mugabe and immediate previous chair President Guebuza.
According to its website, SADC's 15 member states have an estimated combined population of 277 million and GDP of around $575.5 billion.
The bloc was able to launch a Free Trade Area (FTA) as planned in 2008, with only Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Seychelles yet to join.
But the grouping lags behind in other economic landmarks, including the Customs Union, which was expected to be launched in 2010.
It is seeking to see a Common Market by 2015, Monetary Union by 2016 and a Single Currency by 2018.
Mugabe said that the ongoing review to the Regional Integrated Strategic Development Program (RISDP) should not be a mere academic exercise, but a reality check which should redirect the region.
He said the review should result in focusing on fewer programs that are core to the vision of regional integration.
He criticized continued reliance on the generosity and goodwill of cooperating partners.
"How can we proudly claim SADC to be our own organization when close to 60 percent of the programs are externally funded?" Mugabe asked fellow leaders.
He also touched on a slow down on market integration with much focus on the ongoing consolidation of the SADC Free Trade Area.
"We, however, remain concerned about the persistently skewed trade imbalance amongst member states, which further justifies the pursuance of robust industrialization policies across the region, if we are to create jobs and curb labor migration," said Mugabe.
He said they were inspired by Tripartite Free Trade Area which seeks to establish an integrated market covering 26 countries in eastern and southern Africa with a combined population of almost 600 million people and a total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about $1 trillion.
It comprises the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and SADC.
"The prospect of an expanded market and the exploitation of our comparative advantage within the tripartite arrangement can only stimulate intra-Africa trade and lend itself to a multiplier effect on our earnings," Mugabe said.Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Ağustos 2014, 17:29