Malawi President charts route to faster integration

Banjul- The Gambia (PANA) -- Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has suggested ways to make the Regional Economic Commissions (RECs) more effective in order to fast-track African integration.
Addressing his co-African leaders at their bi-annual summit in Banjul, the Gambia, Mutharika said Africa must develop and strengthen its capacity in key areas; control and share its resources; increase intra-African trade and develop the transport and communication infrastructure.
He also listed the re-orientation of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development); more interaction among Heads of state and government, as well as among chief executives of RECs, as other suggestions.
The rationalisation and harmonisation of the RECs to help propel Africa's full integration is the theme of the two-day summit, which opened Saturday and is being attended by over 30 leaders.
"If we need to move forward, we need to change our mindset and engage more indigenous consultants instead of depending on foreign ones," he said of the need to build capacity in the continent.
The Malawian leader also said Africa's rich resources were being controlled by foreign concerns, a situation he said had made it look as if Africa is poor, adding: "Africa is not poor.
It is we the people who are poor.
" On intra-Africa trade, Mutharika described as a "fallacy" the widely-held belief that African states could not trade among themselves because they produce similar products.
"The hindrance to (intra) African trade is that we believe European goods are better than African products," he said, while condemning the flooding of African markets with cheap goods.
Mutharika criticised his colleagues for paying more visits to foreign countries than to other African nations, explaining that more interaction among the leaders would help in the rationalisation of the RECs, which is the key issue for discussion at the Banjul summit.
He also proposed that the chief executives of the eight RECs recognised by the AU should attend each other's meeting and take part "as participants and not as observers".
Officials of the RECs, Mutharika noted, should also be allowed to become more involved at AU summits.
"We sit them in a corner as Observers (during AU summits).
They don't participate, yet we give opportunities to outsiders to address us.
I think we need to change this," he added.
Overall, he said despite challenges, there was an emerging consensus on the rationalisation and harmonisation of the RECs.
"No single option can become a panacea.
We need to blend the options to achieve maximum results, with full consultations with the RECs and member states," he said.

02 july 2006 13:34:00

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