Lusaka, Thursday, November 23, 2023: The 44th COMESA Council of Ministers conducted today in Lusaka, Zambia provided an opportunity for the Secretariat of the regional bloc to highlight some key accomplishments of its regional integration agenda. These focused on its key pillars: market integration, physical connectivity, productive integration (industry and agriculture) and gender and social integration.
Secretary General of COMESA Chileshe Kapwepwe, who addressed the ministers underlined the enhanced growth in global and regional trade. In 2022, COMESA’s exports to the world increased by 15% while the value of intra-COMESA exports increased by 10%. Imports sourced from the COMESA market were ranked in fourth position and increased by 27% in 2022.
The uptake and utilization of trade facilitation programmes has notably been successful in terms of automated and digitalized customs systems, the Simplified Trade Regime and the Tripartite online Non-Tariff Barriers reporting, monitoring and eliminating mechanism.
COMESA has also continued to facilitate the smooth movement of vehicles, goods and persons within its Member States and between COMESA and other regions through the implementation of the Yellow Card and the Regional Customs Transit Guarantee (RCTG) Scheme.
In collaboration with the African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK), an Online Platform for COMESA Negotiations of Trade in Services has been developed. The platform, which was launched at the meeting, aims to expedite the negotiations, providing tools to improve the technical quality of offers and increase the transparency, while at the same time safeguarding the confidentiality of information exchanged between the parties.
The success of the COMESA regional integration is significantly attributed to substantial support from development partners, especially the European Union, the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
“Without the assistance of these partners, work under our programmes would be greatly impaired,” said the Secretary General in appreciation to these institutions.
Vice President of Zambia, Mrs. Mutale Nalumango, who was the chief guest underscored the need for the region to prioritize and refocus on key areas that contribute to development, productivity, and competitiveness.
“Prioritization should be based on value addition, diversification and embracing new technologies, all with due consideration to the protection of our environment,” she said.
The European Union Special Representative to COMESA, Amb. Karolina Stasiak, the World Bank Director for Regional Integration, Dr. Boutheina Guermazi and the African Development Bank, Vice President for the Regional Development Integration and Business Delivery Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade addressed the meetings through video.
The ministers considered the report and recommendations of the COMESA Intergovernmental Committee which preceded their meeting and made decisions on various issues meant to move the regional integration forward in the coming year.