Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni is in South Africa for a joint summit of African leaders from three regional economic blocs to discuss trade.
The meeting is to discuss the formation of a 26-member free trade area bringing together 600 million people.
The second Tripartite Summit which opened yesterday at the Sandton International Convention Centre in Johannesburg, brought together heads of state from the Common Market for East and Southern Africa, the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
The three-day summit launched negotiations to form a free trade area involving the three regional trade blocs.
The proposed Tripartite Free Trade Area is expected to improve trade performance and competitiveness for the region and build on successes of the free trade initiatives existing between some of the countries.
The Tripartite Free Trade Area is expected to provide investors with a market of 600 million people across the 26 member countries.
Among other features of the summit was a review of progress since the first Tripartite Summit in 2008 and formal adoption of the Draft Tripartite Vision and Strategy.
President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, who heads the EAC bloc, said the free trade area would help address poverty, ensure balanced trade and promote social, economic and political development.
Namibia’s president Lucas Pohamba said the creation of the free trade area would create a combined GDP of about 1 trillion dollars.
Pohamba noted that the arrangement would address three pillars of the process of integration namely; market integration, infrastructure development and industrial development.
He said this would greatly strengthen the small and medium enterprises in the three regional economic blocs.
King Mswati of Swaziland, who heads SADC, said the free trade area would help link the African continent and increase direct foreign investment in the region.
He called for peace and stability among the countries in the three economic blocs and said the initiative would help create more jobs, establish a more conducive investment climate and food production for regional and international markets.
South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma said the free trade area would improve the living standards of Africans, especially the youth and ensure food security.