Lusaka, Monday, 18 November 2019: The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa has today launched activities to celebrate its 25 anniversary since its transformation from the Preferential Trade Area (PTA) in 1994.
In a press conference conducted at the Secretariat in Lusaka, Zambia, the Secretary General Ms. Chileshe Kapwepwe unveiled the Silver Jubilee programme, which will include COMESA policy organs meetings, panel discussions on the status of regional integration and sports activities.
The main celebrations will take place on Thursday 28th November 2019 with delegations from all Member States, who will be in Lusaka from next week for the policy organs meetings, will participate. The SG described the 25 milestone as worthy of celebrating given the achievements that regional integration has brought forth to member States.
“Every celebration must have a purpose,” the Secretary General said. “For us in COMESA, we are celebrating the positive impacts that our programmes have had in the lives of the people in our region since the organization was established.”
She highlighted some of COMESA’s main achievements as the deepening of intra-COMESA trade from $3.1 billion in 2000 when the Free Trade Area was established to USD 10.3 billion by the end of last year.
Given the large market, she said membership to the regional bloc has steadily grown to 21 thus bringing together a third of Africa to one common market. Currently, COMESA spans northern Africa from Tunisia through eastern, central and southern Africa and the Indian ocean island States.
With the launch of a Free Trade Area (FTA) in 2000, she said, 16 countries representing 80% of the Member States are participating in duty-free-quota-free system. The elimination of non-tariff barriers that inhibit trade have also recorded a success with about 98% of all NTBs reported in the past ten years having been resolved.
She said: “COMESA with a population of 560 million people has a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of one trillion US dollars and its’ economic growth in terms of GDP has steadily averaged 8% annually.”
Under the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area, most countries have signed the agreement while seven namely Burundi, Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa have ratified the instrument.
Moving forward, the Secretary General pointed out that the bloc will now use new technologies to advance regional integration.
“COMESA has prioritized the creation of digital trade facilitation instruments which are expected to create new trade worth US$12.3 billion annually once the tools are in place,” she told the journalists. “A digital Certificate of Origin and a regional trade portal will soon be launched.”
Other achievements cited is the phenomenal success of COMESA institutions which have grown to become continental such as the Trade and Development Bank (formerly the PTA Bank), the PTA Reinsurance Company (ZEP-Re) and the African Trade Insurance (ATI) among others.