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The Ministerial Committee of the COMESA Fund met in Lusaka, Zambia on 16th December 2016, to deliberate on key issues including funding opportunities available from stakeholders and the implementation of the 7th Call of the Regional Integration Support Mechanism (RISM) funding.

The Ministers proposed that a consolidated analysis be undertaken on the overall contribution of RISM towards improved implementation of regional programmes, as this would assist in determining the impact of the programme on the regional integration process.

Speaking during the official opening of the meeting, Zambia’s Finance Minister Honourable Felix Mutati noted that developing countries had a lot of creativity but their slow rate of implementation inhibited sustainable development.

He said the common trend of Member State’s dependency on the export of primary commodities had adverse impact if prices fluctuated on the international market and cited Zambia as an example adding that the increase of trade within the region can be seen as a tool for increased sustainable development within the economies.

“There is need for COMESA Fund Member States to own the COMESA Fund by making efforts to sustain the Fund through their own contributions which will help minimize the dependence on cooperating partners and ensure that we move from processes and ambitiousness to attaining actual meaningful implementation of programmes that would see increased employment and sustainable growth,” Mutati added.

Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya, reiterated the need for Member States to be learning economies that will adapt to the ever revolving global circumstances and cited Taiwan and Malaysia that have used this development model. In this regard, he pointed out that the establishment of the COMESA Infrastructure Fund (CIF)  was an integral part to adopting innovative mechanisms of financing at the region.

“In this regard, I call on the PTA Bank to build the capacities of National Development Banks to enhance their ability to access the various financing available at the international level,” he said.

Mr Ngwenya reiterated the need to work collectively as a region and reduce the fragmentation of markets. He further encouraged the countries to maximize the large youthful population to enforce economic transformation.

Head of Cooperation at the European Union Gianluca Azzoni reiterated the EU’s continued support for deeper regional integration as evidenced by the support provided under the European Development Fund (EDF) with the current approval of 85 million dollars under the 11th EDF.

He urged Member States to remain steadfast in their regional integration commitments given it was multifaceted and time consuming and also encouraged Member States to increase their level of ambitiousness not only through increased commitments, but through actual implementation of programmes that will help improve the standard of living of the region’s population.

“I therefore wish to call on you as, Member states to have increased political will and solidarity from all stakeholders to attain the desired impact at national level because as you have noted only one Call for Submission is remaining under the 10th EDF RISM programme and so; steps should be taken to review the lessons learnt to date” he urged.

The meeting was attended by delegates from Burundi, Comoros, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The representatives of the PTA Bank and ATI also attended the meeting. The Delegation of the European Union to Zambia and COMESA participated as observers.