Lusaka, Saturday, 14 July 2018: The 38th COMESA Council of Ministers’ meeting began today in Lusaka, Zambia. The meeting is attended by Ministers in charge of ministries that coordinate the implementing of the regional integration programmes under the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.

The Council will review and consider the recommendations presented by the Inter-Governmental Committee whose three days meeting ended on Thursday this week. The Council will also review and endorse the decisions of sectoral ministerial meetings including the Tripartite Ministerial Committee on infrastructure, gender ministers, justice ministers and attorneys general, the COMESA Fund and the COMESA Committee of Governors of Central Banks.

The Minister in the Office of the Vice President of Zambia, Hon. Sylvia Chalikosa, opened the meeting on behalf of the Vice President Her Honour Mrs. Inonge Wina. The Vice President urged member States of COMESA to adopt full digital technologies in their quest to reduce the disparities in digitization among their citizenry and across sectors in the COMESA region.

She said the realities of ICTs have compelled COMESA to adopt digitalization and entrench information communication technologies in its delivery of programmes. Quick, reliable and versatile technologies have supported increased efficiency in among other sectors; agriculture, trade and trade facilitation, finance and health by providing improved broadband networks and knowledge management.

“In the last few years, we have gained tremendous economic, social, and cultural benefits from innovations within the ICT sector. ICT is now poised to deliver a robust and broad-based twenty-first-century economy. In this way ICT ranks high as one of the transformative breakthroughs in this decade,” she added.
Research has shown that new forms of communications technology have allowed for significant gains in productivity throughout the economy of the COMESA region. They also contribute towards reducing the transaction costs and in turn contribute to producing goods that are competitive in the region.

Some of the contribution of ICTs to trade facilitation include supporting customs management, transit and cargo management and eased the speed of doing business.

Mrs. Wina commended COMESA for already implementing a number of digital initiatives such as Customs Automation, Publication and provision of information via internet. COMESA Member States use web based automated customs management systems such as ASYCUDA ++ or ASYCUDA World. In addition, 50 percent of COMESA States have operational Electronic Single Window. The remaining Member States are either at project level or at planning stage in the process to have the Electronic Single Window.

COMESA is also implementing the COMESA Virtual Trade Facilitation System commonly known as the CVTFS. The main aim of CVTFS is to promote trade through facilitation of movement of data to stakeholders, increased connectivity in data sharing among various agencies, increased transparency, standardization and predictability, as well as monitoring transaction progress across multiple steps within the process chain.

Another notable contribution of ICT to trade facilitation is the issuance of Electronic Certificates of Origin. The prototype Electronic Certificate of Origin will soon be piloted and implemented in Member States.

The Chairperson of the COMESA Council of Ministers and Minister of Trade and Consumption of Madagascar Hon. Mrs Yvette Sylla, said COMESA's programs and approaches to market integration, including the resolution of non-tariff barriers served as a benchmark for continental integration at a time when advance the building of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

In his address, the Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said COMESA will work with the government of Zambia to rebuild the cross borders traders market in Lusaka which was gutted by fire two days ago.