ZIMBABWE will host the 19th session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa from March 5-8 2013, aiming to share experiences of sustainable economic growth and development on the continent. The Ministry of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion said in a statement last week the 19th UNECA session would run under the theme "Industrialisation for Economic Transformation and Sustainable Development in Southern Africa - Addressing the Gaps".
The ministry said the theme falls in line with the vision of Zimbabwe's economic blueprint, the Medium Term Plan (2011-2015).
Secretary for Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Dr Desire Sibanda recently said the meeting would attract up to 60 officials from Southern Africa member states and the private sector.
"This is a very important forum for African nations to share experiences and chart the way forward towards attaining double-digit economic growth," he said.
UNECA was established in 1958 with the mandate of promoting economic and social development of member states, foster regional integration and promoting international co-operation for Africa's development.
The session will draw senior officials from Southern African member states - Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Also present will be officials from the ministries of finance, economic planning, industry and commerce as well as academic and research institutions. The African Union Commission, Nepad, other UN agencies, African Development Bank, the World Bank, Development Bank of Southern Africa and the private sector are also expected.
The meeting will be held at the Rainbow Towers in Harare and would be a precursor to the co-hosting of the United Nations World Tourism General Assembly meeting in August 2013. Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Minister Tapiwa Mashakada will officially open the event on March 7, 2013.
UNECA Southern African regional director Ms Beatrice Kiraso is expected to attend the session.
Among other issues, the commission focuses on information communication technology, science and technology for development.
Speaking at the 8th Session of the Committee on Trade, Regional Co-operation and Integration, director Mr Stephen Karingi of the Regional Integration, Infrastructure and Trade Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said the future of African trade and infrastructure was bright
With effective implementation at regional and sub-regional levels, a continental free trade area, supported by strong infrastructural development, was possible.
Mr Karingi noted that the role of the informal cross-border trade on the continent, saying the "informal trade tends to be invisible in mainstream trade statistics".
He said the ECA would be working to generate up-to-date statistics in this field, through research by its African Centre for Statistics.
Mr Karingi said "though intra-African trade is low (about 12 percent), the composition of this trade tends to be more sophisticated in terms of trade in manufactures than is usually perceived".
He said this amounted to 46 percent, relative to trade with the rest of the world.
To facilitate the development of a Continental Free Trade Area, Mr Karingi said, rules of origin and trade facilitation instruments across Regional Economic Communities had to be harmonised.
The African Union Commission and African Development Bank, UNECA are jointly developing the sixth edition of Assessing Regional Integration in Africa.
The successful establishment of a continental FTA in Africa would lead to intra-African trade rising to 22 percent of total African trade and, in line with similar efforts worldwide, would add approximately US$1 trillion to the global economy.