Continental Trade Regime Dominates COMESA High Level Dialogue

Nairobi, Wednesday, July 17, 2019: COMESA Source21 High Level dialogue and international trade fair is underway in Nairobi, Kenya.

President Uhuru Kenyatta opened the forum this morning in the company of three other Heads of State: President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, President Edgar Lungu, Zambia, and Acting President of Mauritius Paramasivum Pillay Vyapoory. Among the key issues that took centre stage during the dialogue that followed the official opening was the Africa continental free trade area.

“The business community eagerly await the benefits of trade that will come not only with expanded markets but with the opportunities for rapid development and access to innovation and technology,” President Kenyatta told the gathering that comprised of governments, business leaders and captains of industry from across the COMESA region.

President Kenyatta emphasized the importance of digitizing African economies saying it will improve transparency and accountability.

“If we want to integrate the continent, we have to be at the same level with regard to our digitization so that the process that we are using in Kenya has interconnectivity with the processes that are being used in Uganda, in Zambia, in Mauritius and elsewhere,” President Kenyatta said.

President Museveni decried the fragmented markets which he observed were too small to have meaningful economic impact and called for their integration. These, he said were major bottlenecks that undermine the continent’s efforts to move out of the poverty trap.

“Is the market of Uganda of 41 million people enough to support large scale production? No. It is not,” President Museveni said.

President Lungu said African governments must demonstrate political will to support SMEs for them to benefit from the AfCFTA.

Secretary General of COMESA Chileshe Kapwepwe spoke of the critical need for digitization of commerce through electronic trade which will eliminate paperwork that constitutes a major impediment to intra-COMESA trade.

During the event, the COMESA Source 21 Handbook, which provides guidelines on doing business, with information on business opportunities in the region in COMESA was launched.