Lovemore Ranga Mataire in Livingstone, Zambia
A three-day Southern African Structured Trade Conference kicked off yesterday in Livingstone, Zambia where seasoned global and regional experts in commodity exchanges, finance, mineral and agri-business are expected to exchange ideas on how to deepen regional economic integration.
The conference is being convened by the INTL FCStone (a diversified financial services firm) and the USAID Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub.
Conference spokesperson, Mulewa Shapi of Stimuli PR said participants are expected to discuss issues to do with regional intergration, cross-border trade linkages and is an ideal platform to explore numerous opportunities for investment matchmaking and business to business trade facilitation.
“The Trade and Investment Hub works with regional governments and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) on trade policy. It also engages with private and public sector organisations, business and industry associations, international development agencies and financial institutions,” Shapi said.
Shapi said the conference is a unique learning and networking experience for producers, consumers and traders of agricultural and mineral commodities, bank lenders, finance companies and investors supporting the agricultural and mineral sectors.
Policymakers, supervisors and operators from government ministries, regulatory bodies and commodity exchange personnel including donors and development agencies will also benefit from the conference.
It is envisaged that the conference will equip participants with knowledge of how to contribute in setting up, operating, trading and financing commodity markets and exchanges both nationally and regionally.
Regional integration has been a global phenomenon seeking to strengthen the economic performance of countries within a specific bloc.
It has manifested in Africa as fronts for preferential trade, a bulwark against tariff regimes, as well as legal forums for co-operation and trade liberalisation.
The establishment of SADC was informed by the quest for regional economic integration, co-operation and co-ordination.
Regional economic experts say integration has the potential to promote growth and reduce poverty
through the increase of exports of domestic goods.
The SADC region is often touted as the ideal region for economic integration given the fact that it's characterised by many countries with small economies, an environment suitable for interstate trade and forging of economic links.
However, the regional body has encountered several challenges that have hindered the much anticipated regional economic integration.
These challenges include over ambitious targets set by the SADC as a roadmap to economic regional integration, multiple and concurrent
memberships of different regional economic communities (RECs), the heterogeneous
nature of the region's economies which has provided an uneven economic environment and varying levels of economic development among member states.
The regional landmark trade conference, which is being graced by the US Ambassador to Zambia Mr Daniel L Foote comes just a month away from the 38th SADC Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government scheduled for Windhoek, Namibia on August 17-18.