The Southern African Development Community (SADC), a major regional bloc in Africa, will begin its annual summit on Thursday in Lusaka, capital of Zambia.
The SADC has been in existence since 1980, when it was formed as a loose alliance of nine majority-ruled states in Southern Africa known as the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), with the main aim of coordinating development projects in order to lessen economic dependence on the then apartheid South Africa.
The founding member states of the bloc are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The SADCC was formed in Lusaka, Zambia on April 1, 1980, following the adoption of the Lusaka Declaration -- Southern Africa:Towards Economic Liberation.
The transformation of the organization from a coordinating conference into a development community SADC took place on August 17, 1992 in Windhoek, Namibia, when the Declaration and Treaty was signed at the Summit of Heads of State and Government thereby giving the organization a legal character.
The SADC currently has 14 member states, namely, Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The 14 members boast of a total population of over 230 million and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of over 200 billion U. S. dollars.
The SADC plans to set up a free trade zone by 2008, a customs union by 2010 and a monetary union by 2016.
The annual summit of heads of state and government is SADC highest decision-making body. The summit will be preceded by the Standing Committee of Senior Officials meeting and the Council of Ministers meeting.
The Secretariat is located in Gaborone, capital of Botswana. Tomaz Augusto Salomao of Mozambique is the group's executive secretary.