Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Zimbabwe to host COMESA summit in December

After several months postponement Zimbabwe announced Thursday the 13th summit of the 20-nation Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) will take place in Victoria Falls resort from November 25 to December 8. Zimbabwe takes over the rotating presidency of the trade grouping at the summit from Kenya.

Confirming the summit, Christian Katsande, permanent secretary in the international trade ministry, said COMESA members aimed to launch a customs union at the summit.

The meeting had been due to take place in April but was put on hold over a spate of political violence following elections in March that the longtime opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won.

Political tensions have subsided considerably since President Robert Mugabe in September agreed to share power with Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC.

Although the two leaders have yet to agree on the composition of a unity government, the holding of the summit is seen as a sign of a return in confidence in the one-time African powerhouse.

The 20 COMESA member states have a combined population of over 385 million. Some of its bigger members include Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Sudan.

Some of its members are also members of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community, which recently announced plans to launch a customs union by 2010.

Kenya's Business Daily newspaper reported last month that COMESA and SADC members were discussing merging the two blocs, and a third, the EAC (East African Community), into one single bloc that would have greater clout in international trade talks.