Peter Fabricius, The STAR, October 23 2008
Three southern and east African regional bodies have decided to merge into a single large free trade area, creating a market of 26 nations, with a population of 580-million and a combined gross domestic product of $650-billion (R7,4-trillion).
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the East African Community (EAC) made this decision at a summit in Kampala, Uganda, on Wednesday.
President Kgalema Motlanthe told the summit that the decision to merge was a historic step towards the African Union's stated goal of creating a continent-wide African Economic Community.
SADC, of which SA is the current chair, at present comprises 15 states, a population of 248-million and a combined GDP of over $375-billion.
This article was originally published on page 6 of The Star on October 23, 2008
The merger would "enlarge our markets, unlock our productive potential, increase the levels of intra-Africa trade and enhance our developmental prospects".
It would place the 26 member nations "in a stronger position to respond effectively to intensifying global economic competition and begin to overcome the challenges posed by multiple memberships of regional organisations".
Director-General of Foreign Affairs Ayanda Ntsaluba said in Cape Town on Wednesday the merger would address the major problem of overlapping membership.
Eight of SADC's 15 member nations are members of Comesa, as are two members of the EAC.
Comesa was due to create a customs union in two months' time, and SADC in 2010.