African leaders push for single market

Leaders from three African trading blocs, accounting for more than half of the continent’s industrial output, met in the Ugandan capital on Wednesday met to push for a single market.

Seven heads of state and foreign ministers from 26 countries of the East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) gathered in Kampala for a tripartite summit.

”A larger single market is indeed a path through which we can contribute to poverty alleviation and employment creation in our region. The benefits of a wider regional bloc are enormous,” Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said ahead of the meeting late on Tuesday.

”These include welfare gains for our people, increased efficiency in production, increased trade and investments, among others. All these can lead to increased employment and wealth creation.

”We should therefore be steadfast in supporting our desire for a bigger regional bloc that can finally culminate into an African Economic Community,” Kibaki said.

The blocs comprise 527-million people and a combined GDP of $624-billion, or 58% of the African Union’s GDP.

One obstacle under discussion arises from countries having overlapping membership in the three blocs, presenting a barrier to the creation of a common customs union.

The leaders are trying to ”help mitigate challenges of multiple membership being faced by the member states as well as pave the way for accelerated inter-regional economic integration”, a statement said.

The summit comes as the continent grapples with the effects of steep food and energy prices as well as the impact of a credit crunch that has hit export markets around the world.

Attending the opening session on Wednesday were presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Kenya’s Kibaki. — Sapa-AFP

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