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The seemingly slow implementation of regional commitments and lack of full-scale participation of all member States in COMESA programmes have been cited as the major reasons why the region is still facing challenges in attaining full integration.

Permanent Secretary (PS) in Zambia’s Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry Ms Kayula Siame says COMESA has put in place a number of institutions, instruments and policies aimed at improving integration and boosting intra-COMESA trade, but these are not implemented fully by the various member States.

This she said, has contributed to the region to delay in attaining its key objective of promoting joint development in all fields of economic activity and programmes to raise the standard of living of its people and to foster closer relations among member States.

She was speaking at the opening of the 32nd meeting of the COMESA Trade and Customs Committee in Lusaka on Monday 29 August 2016.

“Integration is a collective effort, and success can only be attained when the majority are fully engaged in the various activities currently in place in COMESA. The low level of transposition of regional instruments has negatively affected the implementation of the various programmes,” Ms Kayula added.

She revealed that a recent survey undertaken by the Secretariat has shown low levels of implementation of regional commitments at national level and suggested sustained sensitization and awareness campaigns of the COMESA protocols and more importantly the intended benefit of regional integration.

“Awareness creation is crucial for COMESA, ultimately trade investment is spearheaded by the private sector and this is the audience we need to sensitize in order for them to have the utmost confidence in the opportunities within the region,”

In pursuit of the overarching objective of ultimately improving the livelihoods of ordinary citizens, the PS said there is a need to revitalize the domestic industries and ensure that they tap into the existing regional market and contribute to national and regional development objectives. The potential for increased trade and growth exists, noting that intra COMESA trade potential is estimated at USD83 billion.

Speaking earlier, Assistant Secretary General for Programmes Ambassador Kipyego Cheluget said the meeting would receive updates on trade and macroeconomic developments in the region, the functioning of the Free Trade Area, progress towards a Customs Union, Regional Payment and Settlement System (REPSS), the Regional Customs Transit Guarantee and the Capacity Building programme among others.

“It is important for us to ensure that as a region we implement at national level what has been agreed at the regional level. This will help us achieve the collective good of regional integration,” Ambassador Cheluget added.

Recommendations from this three day meeting will be submitted to the Intergovernmental Committee meeting set for October this year in Madagascar.