Lilongwe — THE two-day SADC Heads of State and Government Summit scheduled to kick off here today will deliberate on a wide range of regional issues including the appointment of a new leadership for the secretariat.
According to a draft agenda, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit will discuss a report of the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration.
The Task Force was mandated by southern African leaders to work on a roadmap for the proposed launch of the SADC Customs Union, which is aimed at deepening integration and promoting the smooth movement of goods and services across the region through the removal of non-trade barriers.
The Establishment of a SADC Customs Union would complement the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA) that was launched in 2008. At the last summit held in Maputo, Mozambique, the Task Force reported that some progress had been made in developing the parameters, benchmarks, a model customs union for the region and the timing of activities leading to the launch of the Customs Union.
The launch of the SADC Customs Union was initially scheduled for 2010. However, member countries asked for more time to first implement the SADC FTA. A Customs Union is an advanced stage of integration when compared to a FTA as it does not require tariffs or quotas on goods originating from within the region.
With regard to the political situation in the region, the leaders are expected to receive a report from the outgoing chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who was scheduled to arrive on Friday.
The report is expected to include the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Madagascar as well as an update on the recent harmonised elections in Zimbabwe, which were endorsed as credible by a 573-member SADC observer mission.
The DRC slid into political turmoil early last year when anti-government rebels calling themselves the March 23 movement invaded and captured the city of Goma, causing displacement of people and loss of lives and property.
SADC has called for a peaceful and durable resolution of the conflict in DRC and have pledged to contribute troops to be deployed for this purpose. Madagascar is in a constitutional crisis following the ouster of former President Marc Ravalomanana by Andry Rajoelina in 2009, in a similar method used by Ravalomanana on former President Didier Ratsiraka a few years back.