Lusaka, Saturday, March 25, 2017: COMESA was among five public organization and agencies that participated in activities in Lusaka, Zambia organized to mark 60 years since the signing of the Treaty of Rome that launched the European Union.

The Embassy of Italy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Zambia, the EU Delegation to Zambia, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, Latitude Hotels and COMESA jointly organized a public debate where issues of regionalism were discussed.

The main highlight of the debate was whether the EU was still a model for Africa’s regional integration.

Panelists that included Hon. Cecile Kyenge, a Member of the EU Parliament and former Minister in Italy, were in agreement that peace, democracy and economic growth were the greatest dividends that the union had brought forth to Europe.

Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Kipyego Cheluget, who represented COMESA in the panel, said the regional bloc had benefited immensely from the EU model from the design of the COMESA Treaty, the development of trade facilitation instruments and institutions among others.

“In particular, the free movement of people that the EU has attained is an inspiration to the COMESA region that our efforts towards a similar goal is achievable,” Amb. Cheluget said noting that an increasing number of our member States have relaxed visa controls and opening up to the citizens from the region.

By using information technologies, Amb. Cheluget observed that COMESA and other regional economic communities could leapfrog the challenges faced by the EU and attain faster integration. He congratulated the EU for the milestones it has achieved in its 60 years history.

The EU is the largest contributor to COMESA regional integration programmes with the current allocation under the 11th European Union Development Fund totalling 85 million Euros.

The Zambian Minister of Finance Hon. Felix Mutati, who participated in the discussions urged for enhanced intra-African trade noting that intra-regional trade was quite low compared with international trade.

The two hour debate was held at Latitude 15 Hotel in Lusaka. Other panellists were Ms. Roseta Chabala, President of the Zambia Association of Manufacturers, the Executive Director of NGOCC Civil Society Ms Engwase Mwale and Director, Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry Ms. Lillian Bwalya.

The EU ambassadors accredited to Zambia attended the event.