Heads of State from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) countries will meet Djibouti Wednesday in the coastal town of Djibouti, the capital of the republic also known as Djibouti, for the bloc's 11th annual summit.
At the two-day summit, the leaders are expected to review COMESA programs and map the way forward for regional integration.
Prior to the summit, other COMESA policy organs meetings have been held in Djibouti from Nov. 6. At the meetings, technicians and experts in different fields discussed issues before presenting them to ministers who will then hand over to the heads of state.
The council of ministers meeting which took place on Sunday and Monday had discussed issues focusing on how to further the regional integration process towards the customs union achievement.
The establishment of the customs union, which had been planned to take off in December 2004 when COMESA marked its 10th anniversary, is an important stage of COMESA's integration process before it eventually becomes an economic community.
The plan, however, has been delayed due to concern by member countries over decreased revenue, as many COMESA economies are small and heavily dependent on import duties. The last summit in Kigali, Rwanda, decided that the customs union will be set up by December 2008.
It is believed that how to speed up the setting up of the customs union will also be a major topic at the summit.
COMESA is the largest African economic bloc, grouping Angola, Burundi, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Swaziland, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
It has a total population of about 374 million and a total GDP of 203 billion U.S. dollars.
In the year 2000, COMESA launched the first ever African Free Trade Area which currently comprises 13 member states. It is scheduled to launch a Customs Union in 2008 and a full Monetary Union involving the use of a common currency issued by a common Central Bank in 2025.