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African Leaders Call for Regional Economic Integration


An African Union summit on the issue of pan-African integration concluded in Arusha, Tanzania. AU Chairman Jakaya Kikwete reiterated the support for continued political integration, but focused on economic measures in the shorter term. Derek Kilner has more from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi.

The two-day summit brought together heads of state or ministers from 12 African states. The leaders hoped to provide a better understanding of how to work toward the principles of African political integration endorsed at the AU summit in Accra, Ghana last year.

Following the meeting, AU Chairman Jakaya Kikwete, the president of Tanzania, said the leaders had agreed on a series of "benchmarks" for the process of integration. These included broad appeals for institutionalizing the values endorsed by the AU, and mobilizing popular support for integration.

Proposals in the area of economic integration were slightly more concrete. The group proposed harmonizing the various regional economic communities in Africa, speeding up work on establishing a common African market, building continent-wide financial and monetary institutions, and easing restrictions on migration between countries.

The secretary of the AU's Peace and Security Council, Admore Kambudzi, also highlighted the importance of economic integration in an interview with VOA during the summit. "First of all I think the key will be to accelerate economic integration within the region, within the continent in Africa. You need all the necessary infrastructure from roads, telecommunications, production facilities, irrigation systems, you need to establish a strong substructure for any kind of government to work in Africa," he said.

Kambudzi said the broader project of political integration will likely be a lengthy process. "I think it's a gradual process. We have seen what has happened in Western Europe. What you see as the European Union today has taken many many decades to establish and I don't think the African Union will be an exception to the extent that it will in a few days in one week in a very few years transform itself to be able to have a union government," he said.

The meeting in Tanzania comes ahead of the A.U.'s annual summit, scheduled for the end of June in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

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