16 January 2013 In a first for BRICS, high-level representatives of Africa's regional economic blocs and the African Union (AU) have been invited to attend the fifth BRICS summit taking place in Durban in March, delegates were told at a preparatory media workshop in Pretoria on Tuesday. The decision to invite the AU along with the various regional groupings, including the East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Central Africa (Comesa) and Southern African Development Community (SADC), is in line with South Africa's goal of promoting regional integration. It also fits in with the theme for the Durban summit: "Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation". The EAC, SADC and Comesa are working towards the creation of a 26-nation free trade area covering southern, central and east Africa. The free trade area will comprise nearly 60% of the economy of Africa, have a combined GDP of US$1-trillion, and encompass 600-million people.
Preparations in full swingThe Department of International Relations' deputy director-general for Asia, Middle East and BRICS, Anil Sooklal, told delegates at Tuesday's workshop that it was all systems go for the logistics of the summit. South Africa was admitted to the grouping of powerful emerging economies, which includes Brazil, Russia, India and China, at the third annual summit of the bloc's leaders in China in 2011. At last year's summit in New Delhi, India, South Africa was awarded the hosting of the 2013 summit, which will take place at Durban's International Convention Centre from 25 to 27 March. About 3 000 delegates and officials, including the presidents and prime ministers of the five countries, will attend. Various activities have been planned for the summit, including an academic forum, a finance ministers' business workshop, and various cultural events. As per tradition, the leaders will reflect on various international issues, such as security and economy, both to find consensus and to gauge how best to participate, as a grouping, on the global stage. South Africa will the take over the chairmanship of the group for the 12 months following the Durban summit, before handing the baton over to Brazil in 2014. SANews.gov.za, with additional reporting by SAinfo
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