The East African community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) kicked off here Wednesday its first tripartite summit which aims at seeking cooperation and coordination of the three blocs in all sectors with an ultimate goal to form a single market.
The summit brought delegates from 26 member states from the three blocs who will discuss matters related to enhancing cooperation among EAC, COMESA and SADC, three of the eight regional economic communities (RECS) recognized under the AU conventions as the building blocks for the African Economic Community (AEC) and continental unity.
In an official opening speech to the summit, Tomaz Salomao, executive secretary of SADC who also spoke on behalf of COMESA, EAC and SADC, said holding such a tripartite summit has not been easy but with the wisdom and commitment from all the member states, the summit has become a reality.
The tripartite summit is the defining moment for the Eastern and Southern Africa which shares the same development targets, Salomao said.
The summit will provide the member states of the three blocs with the strategies and directions for their efforts toward the regional integration, he said.
"The tripartite framework agenda has indeed redefined our benchmarks for regional integration in Eastern and Southern Africa, and Africa as a whole," the SADC official said.
"Experience has shown that states have graduated into the elite of developed countries as a consequence of deepening of integration and pooling of resources by neighbor states, thereby attracting investment justified by expanded markets," he explained.
The moment is also opportune for the three sub-regions to push for enhanced market access, global competitiveness and increased intra-African trade, Salomao said.
There is broad consensus on the pivotal role of infrastructure in the overall regional development agenda, as it unlocks opportunities for trade, economic development and free movement of persons, the official noted.
The challenge for mobilization of fund for infrastructure should be accorded priority as a matter of urgency, he added.
Also topping the agenda of the summit are issues of multiple memberships in the three communities with a view to coordinating and harmonizing their regional integration programs.
The three regional economic communities in Eastern and southern Africa comprise 26 countries with a combined population of 527 million people, and a GDP for capital averages 1,184 U.S. dollars.
The 26 countries make up half of the African Union (AU) in terms of membership and just over 58 percent in term of contribution to GDP and 57 percent of the total population of AU.
The tripartite summit is considered as historic because for the first time, since the birth of the AU, key building blocs of AEC are meeting on how to integrate territories and moving towards deepening and widening integration within the overall Abuja Treaty for the establishment of AEC.