The ad-hoc expert group for Economic and Social Council Economic Commission for Africa sub regional office for Southern Africa has gathered in Bulawayo to focus on issues to do with deepening regional integration and the prospects of the tripartite free trade.

The integration of African economies in order to increase self-reliance and regional economic growth remains a key aspect of the ambitious attempt to integrate the continent to a trade block creating a market of 632 million people.

This was said by Professor Said Adejumobi, the director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Southern African office when he addressed the ad-hoc expert group meeting.

Professor Adejumobi said at the second tripartite summit in 2011 leaders made a deliberate and strategic choice in adopting a developmental approach to regional integration anchored on three main pillars which are market integration, industrial and infrastructure development.

He added without production, trade and market liberalisation will remain meaningless adding that the industrial pillar seeks to boost the productive capacity of member states, promote value addition and beneficiation as well as enhance economic diversification.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Mr Willard Manungo said regional integration remains an important aspect in opening markets to enhance development of regional value chains and increase intra trade as well as stimulating economic growth.

He added that removing trade barriers contributes to the expansion of cross border and regional trade, adding that there is a need to address structural and policy issues so as to deepen regional integration.

African economic transformation now demands value addition and mineral beneficiation as the main thrust to increase value added products so as to graduate the continent from being producers of raw material.