The top decision making organs of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) are scheduled to begin meeting, Monday 10 October 2016 in Antananarivo, Madagascar ahead of the 19th Heads of State Summit on 18 – 19 October 2016.

Top on the agenda will be discussions on how to address challenges that Member States. Face in domesticating decisions taken by the Council of Ministers on the implementation of COMESA regional integration programmes at the national and regional levels.

Hosted under the theme “Inclusive and sustainable industrialization,” the debate will also address the productive constraints that inhibit inclusive and sustainable transformation of the region; from low productivity economies that rely on export of unprocessed primary commodities with either little or no value addition, to high competitive economies that produce and export value added products.

Between 800 - 1,000 delegates comprising policy makers in governments, leaders of the regional business community, development partners, regional economic communities and strategic continental institutions will attend.

The chair of COMESA H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia will handover over the leadership of the regional organization to the President Madagascar H.E. Hery Rajaonarimampianina at the close of the Summit on 19th October 2016.

The leader and experts will review the status of market integration in the region with a focus on how member States are implementing the COMESA Free Trade area (FTA). Currently, 16 out of the 19 member States have joined the FTA with DR Congo being the latest to enlist mid this year.

The outstanding non-tariff barriers will also feature with focus on those that are remaining. Latest reports indicate that 96 percent of the NTBs reported to the COMESA Secretariat have been resolved and States involved are negotiating on how to eliminate the rest.

The implementation of the decisions that have made by the Council of Ministers in the past which member States have not yet domesticated will be addressed. The meetings will be seeking to establish the challenges member States face with a view to assist them.

Some of these include the Protocol on Gradual Relaxation and Eventual Elimination of Visas (Visa Protocol) which have been ratified by all Member States but the implementation has been slow. The same applies to the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Services, Labour and the Right of Establishment and Residence (Free Movement Protocol).

Other decisions expected from the policy organs meetings will be on the how to energize the implementation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area. Launched in June 2015 in Egypt, 17 countries out of the 26 in COMESA, the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community have so far signed the agreement but none has ratified.

The COMESA Council of Ministers which meets on 13 - 14 October 2016 is expected to provide policy direction on how to hasten the pace of the implementation of the tripartite agreement