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Antananarivo, Monday October 10, 2016: COMESA leaders have begun meeting in Madagascar to set the programme for the next one year for the 19 member regional economic bloc, focusing on the role of industrialization in addressing low trade volumes.

The Intergovernmental Committee (IC) that brings together Permanent/ Principal Secretaries was the first to kick off with a call to member States to enhance their capacities to produce goods and services that have a high technology content in order to scale up industrialization

In his opening address to the meeting, the Minister of Trade and Consumption in Madagascar, Hon. Armand Tazafy said regional integration will only be consolidated when the value of traded commodities especially agriculture and minerals products was high.

Currently, the region trades more externally than internally with assessed trade potential value that would enhance intra-COMESA trade for goods, standing at US$ 82.3 billion. Intra-COMESA trade would increase by US$ 41.15 billion if 50% of the current external trading was channeled to the region, according to a study conducted recently by the COMESA Secretariat.

“Without sustainable industrialization, our region cannot adequately respond to the ever increasing needs of high value products with the rising middle class in our continent which has been forced to source elsewhere.”

The minister urged member states to involve the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in contributing towards industrialization in the region through backward and forward linkages. He said enhanced value addition and creation of value chains would ensure inclusive and sustainable industrialization while investment on the affected sectors would be increased.

Recently, the regional bloc adopted the COMESA Industrial Policy as well as the COMESA Common Investment Area to assist in facilitating both intra-regional and Foreign Direct Investments into the region.

“Member States should complement this initiative in the productive sector by implementing programmes that seek to enhance innovation and the utilization of science and technology even in rudimentary production processes.” Minister Tazafy said noting that this was being achieved through product and commodity clusters.

Secretary General of COMESA, Sindiso Ngwenya said time had come for COMESA to review its business processes including the model that the organization and its predecessor the PTA has used over the years.

“It goes without saying that regional cooperation and integration like any development process requires continuous review and reforms to ensure not only its relevance but the capacity to deliver on its promise,” Mr Ngwenya said.

He urged the Intergovernmental Committee to review whether it has adequately executed its role under the COMESA Treaty of developing programs and action plans.

“Has the Inter-Governmental Committee lived to its promise by developing programs and action plans? Perhaps the Committee has partially developed programs but I doubt that it has developed action plans and action plans for whom,” posed the Secretary General.

The PSs meeting which concludes on Wednesday, will receive progress reports of various technical committees and COMESA institutions. Each Member State will have an opportunity to report on its status of implementation of COMESA Programmes.

The outputs of the IC will inform the decisions taken by the Council of Ministers that meets later this week and the declarations of the Heads of State and Government during their Summit on 18-19 October 2016.