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Lusaka, Tuesday, May 30, 2017: COMESA and the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to deepen collaboration in combating money laundering and terrorist and proliferation financing.

COMESA Secretary General Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya and Dr. Eliawony Kisanga, Executive Secretary of ESAAMLG Secretariat signed on behalf of their respective organizations in a brief ceremony at the COMESA Secretariat.

ESAAMLG and other eight Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regional bodies are involved in combating money laundering and financing of terrorism. Ten out 18 countries in ESAAMLG are COMESA members with six of them covered by the Regional Maritime Security Programme (MASE).

The COMESA MASE programme is designed to address maritime insecurity by targeting the financial aspects such as money laundering to fight piracy.  It is implemented in 10 countries of the Eastern and Southern Africa with the financial support of the European Union.

Both organizations bring on board competences, which when combined will enhance their individual contributions to supporting real sustainable and inclusive growth in the member states.

Prior to signing the MoU, COMESA and ESAAMLG undertook joint initiatives; key among these was the partnership in supporting Madagascar to join ESAAMLG in 2016.  This was done to assist Madagascar to adhere to one of FAFT recommendations which requires that all countries have to belong to one FAFT-Style Regional Body.

COMESA Secretary General stressed the importance of sustainability, predictability and inclusivity for economic growth, which he said can be undermined by money launderers whose main goal, is to hide the proceeds of crime.

“Money launderers do not share the profit making objectives of legitimate private sector,” Ngwenya said. “Their objective is to hide or protect their proceeds of crime.  They will pump the illegally gotten money into sectors that effectively hide the proceeds which may result in a real distortion of the economy especially in small economies.”

He said that companies that operate using laundered cash are able to reduce their prices below the cost of production, which he said can effectively crowd-out legitimate private sector.

He stressed the importance of coordination and collaboration in the fight against money laundering noting: “No sector or jurisdiction or organization can effectively fight against money laundering on its own.”

In his remarks, Dr. Kisanga said that ESAAMLG would continue to work in close coordination with COMESA. He expressed hope that the signing of the MoU would enhance the capacity of the two organizations to achieve their goals in combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism.