On Wednesday African leaders and business executives begin three days of talks in South Africa on the economic future of the world's poorest continent.

African political leaders and members of the continent's business community will meet from Wednesday through Friday in the Indian Ocean port city of Durban.

The talks will be the 12th Summit of the World Economic Forum in Africa. They are set to focus on the New Economic Program for African Development, known as NEPAD. The 15-nation NEPAD steering committee will co-host the summit.

NEPAD is the brainchild of South African President Thabo Mbeki and Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo. It aims to convince the developed world that Africa is a good place for investment.

The World Economic Forum has said seven heads of state, roughly 800 business leaders and scores of other regional officials will attend the summit. They will discuss good governance, peace and security and infrastructure development.

The summit is also expected to address several regional trouble spots, including Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo. African diplomats tell the Reuters news agency there will be special talks on the Congolese peace process alongside the economic meeting.

Reuters has reported South African President Mbeki will meet with Malawian President Bakili Muluzi and Zambian leader Levy Mwanawasa to exchange views on how to re-start the peace dialogue in the DRC.

Mr. Mwanawasa currently chairs the Organization of African Unity. Mr. Muluzi heads the 14-nation Southern African Development Community, or SADC, which includes Congo. All three men are scheduled to take part in the economic summit.

A DRC peace summit scheduled for last week in Zambia was postponed indefinitely, in part because it was not clear that all the parties would be attending. That summit was supposed to build on a controversial partial agreement that emerged from an earlier round of talks held in South Africa.

The government reached a secret peace deal with one of the main Congolese rebel groups. But another major armed group and several opposition parties have rejected the agreement.

When the Zambian, South African and Malawian leaders meet in Durban for the economic summit, it is believed they plan to use the opportunity to discuss ways of re-starting the Congolese peace process.

Reuters has said the leaders of Mozambique, Rwanda and Uganda will also take part in the consultations.