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Ambassadors and High Commissioners accredited to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) convened in Livingstone, Zambia for the 2nd Diplomatic Conference on Competition and Trade. The conference sought to leverage on the diplomats’ skills and networks to advocate for implementation of regional integration in their respective countries.

Anchored on the theme: “Enhanced Integration through Competition, Investment and Development”, the Conference is a new forum for sensitizing the diplomats on the increasing importance of competition policy and law in ensuring that trade liberalization results in the intended benefits for the Member States.

Currently, only 10 out of the 19 Member States of COMESA, have operational National Competition Authorities. The rest have only enacted competition laws but the Competition Authorities are not operational. Under this situation, the COMESA Competition Commission (CCC) is faced with different collaborative challenges in the enforcement of the Regulations in the Common Market.

The mandate of the Commission is to ensure that the Common Market remains competitive, and that business actors do not deter the effective operations of markets. In organizing the diplomatic conference, the Commission and the COMESA Secretariat seeks to facilitate deeper collaboration between COMESA and its institutions on one hand and the Governments of the Member States on the other in implementing regional integration programmes.

At the opening of the conference on28th September 2017, the Chair of the Commission Ms. Thabisile Langa said competition policy was enacted to help nations achieve economic prosperity and increase the welfare of society.

“Competitive markets allow economic operators to adjust to changes and to innovate,” she said. “Such markets ensure a level playing field and compels companies to innovate and operate efficiently.”

She added that a regionally integrated market requires, not only compliance with the Treaty obligations but above all the political will among the Member States.

“In the past decades, there has been more emphasis on the role of political diplomacy in realizing the regional integration agenda,” Ms. Langa said. “While the political will is fundamental for the achievement of regional integration, economic diplomacy over the years has become an essential tool as well.”

In recognition of this fact, the Commission is now seeking to leverage on the diplomats’ political influence and networks at bilateral and multilateral levels to open the regional markets, and make gains towards the full achievement of the COMESA Treaty objectives.

The Minister for Commerce, Industry and Trade of Zambia, Hon. Margaret Mwanakatwe said there was need for harmonization of national laws with regional laws, namely the COMESA Treaty to foster stronger economic integration.

In her speech presented by the Permanent Secretary, Southern Province of Zambia Mr. Sibanza Simuchoba, the Minister observed that inconsistent domestic rules among Member States have increased uncertainties and imposed additional transaction and compliance costs for international businesses.

“Regional integration will only be successful when businesses, consumers and governments become fully aware of the benefits and opportunities and being part of the global supply chains,” she observed.

During the conference, the diplomats were taken through the progress made in various regional trade negotiations frameworks. Notably, the progress made under the Continental Free Trade Area negotiations, the Tripartite Free Trade Area negotiations and the implementation of the COMESA Free Trade Area.

Other participants at the conference were African ambassadors based in Malawi, Commercial Attaches in COMESA Member States’ diplomatic missions, heads of COMESA institutions and COMESA Secretariat.

The Chief Justice of Zimbabwe Hon. Justice Luke Malaba and the Africa Union Delegate to Southern Africa, Dr. Auguste Ngomo participated in the conference.