Regional Trade Promotion Framework Validated

Representatives from Trade Promotion Agencies, Chambers of Commerce, the private sector and Ministries of Trade and Industry have validated the COMESA Regional Trade Promotion Strategy. This was during a two-day workshop held in Bujumbura, Burundi, 11 – 12 December 2023 to review and amend the draft content of the strategy.

This is the first time that COMESA is developing a Regional Trade Promotion Strategy. Once adopted and fully implemented, it will enable the region to boost its intra-COMESA trade levels from the current low levels. The workshop thus provided an opportunity for the delegates to review the content and make input that captures the various aspects that could help the region deepen its trade.

Speaking at the workshop, the Assistant to the Minister of Trade, Industry, Transport and Tourism Mr Jean Claude Kanene emphasized the importance of the region having a Trade Promotion Strategy as a way of bringing about real integration.

“Promoting exports in our region is a giant step towards improving community trade,” said Mr Kanene. “A frank dialogue between Member States will provide a common overview of the opportunities to promote exports, the challenges faced by exporters and possible solutions to these challenges in order to facilitate the movement of products across the corridors.”

He reiterated Burundi’s commitment to the COMESA integration agenda adding that the country has over the years signed and implemented various regional instruments such as the COMESA Free Trade Area and the free movement of people.

“You are all witnesses, you have received the Visa on arrival and the digitalization of immigration services is an important step in reducing costs,” he added.

On his part, the Director of Trade and Customs at COMESA Secretariat Dr Christopher Onyango stressed the importance of the region having a Trade Promotion Strategy that is alive and effective.

He said despite, the progress that COMESA has made in advancing economic integration and trade liberalization, the regional market is still characterized by various challenges and constraints.  This is evident by low levels of intra-COMESA trade and investments, dependence on commodity trade and under-developed value chains.

He cited some of the priority value chains identified under the COMESA Industrial development cluster which include Agricultural products, Agro processed products, Livestock and Livestock products, Fisheries, Cosmetics and beauty products, Pharmaceuticals, Leather and leather products, Textiles and apparels, Fertilizers, Paper and paper products, Furniture, Iron and Steel, Electrical products and Construction materials.

“But it is not enough just to value add and take goods to markets. A Trade Promotion Strategy must be accompanied by a well-designed marketing and communication strategy. At the same time, we should work harder to open services markets. We live in a digital age, and digital trade is global by nature,” Dr Onyango said.

The Validation Workshop was supported by the European Union Development Fund (EDF11).

Currently, Burundi is the Vice Chair of COMESA and is expected to host the next Summit of Heads of State and Government in 2024.