Lusaka, May 12, 2020: COMESA Member States have asked the Secretariat to conduct a socioeconomic study on the effects of the Coronavirus to inform ongoing COVID-19 containment measures and recovery strategies. The request was made by Permanent/ Principal Secretaries (PSs) from ministries that coordinate COMESA regional integration programmes during the COMESA Intergovernmental Committee meeting conducted today by video conference.
The meeting was called to consider a raft of regional guidelines that will enable a coordinated approach in responding to COVID-19. Currently, Intra and Extra-COMESA trade has been negatively affected by the measures that countries in the region have put in place, which differ in extent and severity.
The delegates acknowledged that some of the measures are not coordinated at a regional level thus seriously limiting regional trade which involves essential commodities that are in critically demand. Hence, the need for a coordinated approach that will ensure that measures individual countries put in place are harmonized across the region to facilitate the flow of essential goods and services.
Given the multiple membership of countries to regional economic blocs: COMESA, the East African Community and the Southern Africa development Community, the delegates endorsed the development of guidelines that will provide a coordinated approach across the region.
A draft set of guidelines, which was developed by trade and customs experts from member states was discussed by the PSs for their endorsement before they are presented to the Council of Ministers on Thursday this week for adoption and subsequent implementation.
Addressing the delegates, the Secretary General of COMESA Chileshe Kapwepwe said a cooperative effort on the part of all countries is needed as the world has become interconnected through technology, production and travel.
“In addition to coordinated efforts, a uniform application of measures is paramount at a regional level to ensure continued trade and supply of goods and services while attending to the imperatives of public health,” the Secretary General said.
She told the PSs that regional countries were experiencing mixed fortunes in COVID-19 infections. Some have managed to flatten the curve; others have maintained low rates of infections while the majority are still recording increased numbers.
“Even if the world will eventually succeed to contain this pandemic, tremendous amounts of resources will have been deployed for this purpose and economies will have shrunk owing to subdued activity as countries try to halt the spread of the virus,” the SG said adding that the Secretariat will be coordinating efforts by Member States to develop recovery plans to ensure the gains already made in regional integration are not totally eroded.
During the meeting, the Secretariat presented a proposal to review its budget downwards considering that most of the activities have been scaled down as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. This will translate to less contributions by member states to the annual budget of the Secretariat budget.
The report of the PSs will be presented to the Extra-Ordinary Council of Minister for decision-making on Thursday this week.