Lusaka, Tuesday, July 10, 2018: The official opening of the first pre- Summit COMESA policy Organs’ meeting, was conducted today in Lusaka, Zambia. The 38th Inter-Governmental Committee, which precedes the Ministerial and the 20th Heads of State and Government, scheduled for 18 -19 July 2018, was opened by the acting Minister of Commerce and Industry of Zambia, Hon. Matthew Nkhuwa.
Delegations from 17 out of the 19 COMESA States are attending the three days Intergovernmental Committee meeting which has brought together, Principal/Permanent Secretaries drawn from a multiplicity of departments and ministries to discuss and review the implementation of regional integration programmes and activities.
Delegations in attendance include the D R Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Libya, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The IC is responsible for the development of COMESA programmes and action plans pertaining to regional integration and will review reports on the implementation of regional integration programmes and make recommendations to the Council of Ministers that will meet on 14 – 15 July 2018.
In his address, the Hon. Nkhuwa, noted that since the establishment of the COMESA Free Trade Area in 2000, Intra-COMESA total exports has increased from US $ 1.5 billion in the year 2000 to reach US$ 9.6 billion in 2015.
“Several COMESA countries recorded notable positive growths in their 2016 global exports, these include Djibouti (204%), Comoros (109%), Uganda and Madagascar (10%), Sudan (8%) and Burundi (6%). Regarding imports, COMESA countries that recorded growths in their 2016 global imports were Seychelles (62%), Djibouti (57%), Sudan (2%) and Ethiopia (1%),” he said.
However, a slight decline of US1.6 billion was recorded in 2016 due to among other factors, drought, which affected most of the countries especially in Eastern Africa.
The minister observed that COMESA has been focusing on continuing to build consensus of the Member States concerning outstanding Customs Union and trade facilitation instruments as well as facilitating the process of harmonisation and domestication of the Custom Union instruments. This, he said, has resulted in increased alignment by Member States of the Customs Union instruments.”
In his address, COMESA Secretary General Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya said COMESA said the benefits of integration programmes and regional investment are manifested by the growth of their economies.
“With the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in March 2018, a new stimulus for integrating the continent has been unleashed,” the Secretary General said. “We have always viewed the COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA) and the launch of the Tripartite FTA in 2015 as fast- tracks to the continental FTA.”
Earlier, development partners including the European Union, the USA, France, the International Organization for Migration and the African Development Bank addressed the delegates. Head of EU Delegation to Zambia, H.E. Ambassador Alessandro Mariani, underscored the EU’s commitment to continue working with COMESA to this effect to promote regional integration.
French Ambassador Sylvain Berger assured delegates that France remains convinced that COMESA has a critical role to play in the fight against climate change as well as helping COMESA member states to implement the Paris Agreement.
Ambassador Daniel Foote of the USA said COMESA and Africa must trade with itself more to catalyze the development of its economies by tackling constraints that impede trade and investment. He further noted that US Government share a common vision with COMESA of a region that enjoys greater prosperity, higher living standards.
IOM Programme Officer Ms. Nomagugu NCUBE, representing the IOM Regional Director, said the IOM will provide technical support under “COMESA Cross Border Trade Initiative: Facilitating small-scale trade across borders.” This follows the signing of the umbrella agreement between the European Union and COMESA for this programme in June 2018.
This year’s Summit is running under the theme: COMESA: Towards Digital Economic Integration. The focus is on establishing seamless processes across the COMESA region to enable ease of doing business/trade among member States and thus contribute to enhancing regional integration.