Although Uganda recently hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) summits, the hosting and integration of the three Regional Economic Communities(RECs)seems to promise more tangible prospective benefits.
An economic bloc of 26 African countries with a population of 527 million people and a combined Gross Domestic Product of US 624 billion $,seems to be each government's official's dream as Uganda hosts the tripartite meeting of SADC,COMESA and EAC in Kampala on Wednesday.
According to the itinerary, the preliminary meeting of permanent secretaries and senior officials was held over the weekend between 18-19thOctober, the ministerial session on Monday October 20 while Heads of Government/state would arrive on Tuesday to consider recommendations of the ministers and exchange views on Wednesday(October 22).
According to Uganda's minister responsible for East African Community (EAC) Affairs, Mr. Eriya Kategaya, the vision of the first COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite is towards a single market under the theme "Deepening COMESA- EAC-SADC Integration.”
Kategaya says that hosting the tripartite meeting is an honour to bring together 26 heads of state, half of the African Union to focus on enhancing cooperation and integration amongst the economic blocs. Besides the heads of state, Uganda is expected to host over 800 delegates and officials bringing in foreign currency and exploring investment or joint venture opportunities.
Since the African Union has previously initiated debate on having a one economic community and a union government for Africa, Uganda's position is that the best strategy is to consolidate regional integration using the existing regional economic communities as building blocs towards an eventual AU government.
The tripartite is to focus on cross cutting issues that affect the 3 communities and their peoples.The agenda items according to the organizers include Regional integration covering economic and trade liberalization, trading arrangements among the communities; Infrastructural development and connectivity in areas of energy, railways, roads, ICT all in support of regional integration. Promoting free movement of persons beginning with business people among the three blocs will also be high on the agenda.
The Heads of state are expected to make declarations on the way forward in terms of collective actions and strategies.
According to the World Bank data as of 2006, Africa Union with 53 countries has a total population of 917,564,000 with a total GDP of US $ 1,065,228 million .The three regional economic communities make 58%(US $ 644m) in terms of contribution to the total AU GDP and 57% (527m ) of the total population.
While service providers and businessmen prepare to reap big from the high level function, the leaders will also take time to discuss coordination and harmonization of their regional integration programmes as a way of mitigating challenges of multiple membership to different blocs.
The venue of all the meetings is at the Common Wealth Resort Hotel Munyonyo at the shores of Lake Victoria Africa's largest fresh water body shared by the three East African countries.
By Muhangi Jossy
African Press Agency