In Midrand, South Africa, regional heads of state are holding an economic summit. The aim is to speed up efforts to achieve economic integration among members of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following developments. From Johannesburg, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.
“Their first aim is to set up a Free Trade Area and to meet a deadline, which the region set previously of achieving that by 2008. But in fact the chances of that happening analysts say are not very good because there hasn’t been much progress in setting up a Free Trade Area up until now. And they’ve been working on it for several years. So, there is some skepticism this deadline could be met,” she says.
SADC chairperson Pakalitha Mosisili made a statement prior to the start of the summit. Robertson says, “He did urge member states to try and find a way around what are believed to be disagreements and squabbles even over the plans. He urged member states to be more flexible and reminded them that the process is a give and take affair. And it remains to be seen how much attention is paid to that plea.”
Mosisili says, “We do not as yet have a driver for regional economic integration.”
Asked whether South Africa would naturally be considered for that role, Robertson says, “I suppose that might be the case, but South Africa often finds difficulty in driving these kinds of programs simply because it is the economic powerhouse in the region and even on the continent. And consequently, other countries often see South Africa as pushing its own agenda and having less interest in other countries’ requirements, as far as these issues are concerned.”
SADC leaders are also expected to discuss the upcoming runoff presidential election in the DRC.