The COMESA High Level Business Dialogue dubbed SOURCE21 has concluded two-days of deliberations in Nairobi, Kenya and identified key areas to deepen regional trade. These are: promoting manufacturing competitiveness, curbing illicit trade, improving access to finance for businesses, bridging the digital gap and improving agriculture competitiveness.
The Dialogue involved a Presidential and Private Sector Roundtable that brought together Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya) Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Edgar Lungu (Zambia) and the Acting President of Mauritius Paramasivum Pillay Vyapoory.
Also, in the panel were COMEA Secretary General Ms. Chileshe Kapwepwe, UNCTAD Secretary General Dr Mukhisa Kituyi and Chair of the COMESA Business Council Marday Venkatasamy who presented the raft of recommendations made.
The key messages from the Presidential dialogue was the need to address bottlenecks to business competitiveness and dealing with the drivers of high cost of doing business such as infrastructure, transport and the high cost of printing money.
While advocating for education and skills development, the leaders also called for the promotion of local sourcing in Member States and the need to identify under -consumption and develop strategies to address it.
To accelerate the implementation of the AfCFTA, the leaders urged Member States to consider building upon the Rules of Origin and the negotiated tariffs from the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA). Promotion of market access for Made in Africa products was highly emphasized.
On promoting manufacturing competitiveness, several recommendations were agreed on among them the need to harmonize regulatory frameworks on standards including adopting equivalence measures within COMESA.
The meeting called on Member States to strengthen coordination and develop a regional strategy to address the illicit trade in the region. In particular, focus should be given to reinforcement of the cooperation between countries and law enforcement agencies.
The Dialogue also urged Member states to develop alternative affordable, specialized SME’s financial mechanism or venture funds through partnerships with multilateral investments for improved SME’s access to finance.
On bridging the Digitalization Gap, the key message was that countries should increase investment in road, rail, energy infrastructure to reduce the cost of doing business.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Kenya’s Principal Secretary for Trade, Dr Chris Kiptoo assured the participants that his country will champion the implementation of the outcomes of the High-Level Dialogue.
Assistant Sectary General of COMESA in charge of Programmes Dr Kipyego Cheluget thanked the government of Kenya for the leadership it has provided in spearheading regional integration programs.
Meanwhile the international trade fair that ran alongside the High- Level Dialogue will continue until Sunday 21 July 2019 to provide business people from the 21 COMESA Countries with networking opportunities.