ADDIS ABABA, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- Some 300 policymakers and economic sector stakeholders drawn from 14 East African countries on Tuesday kicked off a high-level meeting on regional integration in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea amid call to sustain regional integration.
The three-day meeting, mainly emphasized augmenting regional integration as a vital imputes "to sustain the exceptional economic growth experienced by East Africa over the past decade."
The meeting, which is being held under the theme "How to Leverage New Opportunities for Regional Integration," is a flagship UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) annual meeting focusing on East Africa, which is taking place in the Eritrean capital for the first time.
Osman Saleh, Eritrean Foreign Affairs Minister, addressing the opening session of the high-level meeting, emphasized the remarkable human and natural potential of the East African region which can transform lives of individuals.
"The Horn of Africa, after decades of conflict, is breathing air of hope, togetherness, peace and stability, critical to regional integration," the Eritrean foreign minister said.
About 300 decision-makers and economic stakeholders are attending the meeting representing 14 countries served by the ECA's East Africa Office, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, and South Sudan, according to the ECA.
Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the ECA, also underscored the importance of increasing regional trade and implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
"By trading more among ourselves, we can build the equitable and balanced economies which can hold the promises the youth is looking for, and realize the dream of a prosperous Africa. In East Africa alone, the implementation of the AfCFTA could result in 1.8 billion U.S. dollars welfare gains and the creation of 2 million new jobs," the ECA chief told the meeting.
The ECA, noting that East Africa has been experiencing strong economic performance with an average growth rate of 6.6 percent since 2014, also stressed concerted efforts as the sub-region "is still facing structural challenges."
"Climate change, refugee crises or health risks are transnational issues affecting several countries in the region. Such regional challenges require a regional response," the ECA said in a statement issued on the margins of the meeting.
Andrew Mold, acting director of ECA's East Africa Office, also stressed during the meeting that "cross border problems affecting the region need a cross-border answer. Enhanced regional cooperation is needed to make regional growth more sustainable and inclusive."
The meeting, which runs until Thursday, is expected to discuss strengthening regional cooperation, from the socio-economic and political standpoint to the issues of regional trade and job creation, it was noted.
Experts and policymakers attending the meeting will also analyze regional economic and social performance and hold experts' sessions about key economic sectors including energy, tourism and the blue economy.
The 23rd edition of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts and Senior Official is organized by the ECA in collaboration with the Eritrean government.