STATEMENT BY THE GUEST OF HONOUR HON. CHIPOKA MULENGA, MP, MINISTER OF COMMERCE, TRADE AND INDUSTRY DURING THE OPENING OF THE 43RD COMESA INTER-GOVERNMENTAL COMMITTEE MEETING

The secretary general of comesa, her excellency, ms. Chileshe kapwepwe, 

Her lordship, judge president of the court of justice,  

Distinguished members of the inter-governmental committee, 

Heads of comesa institutions, 

Assistant secretaries general, 

Excellencies high commissioners and ambassadors accredited to the republic of zambia, permanent and special representatives to comesa 

Representatives of international and regional organisations, 

Our co-operating partners here present, 

Members of staff of the secretariat, 

Members of the presss,

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, 

Good morning and a very warm welcome to this 43rd meeting of the comesa intergovernmental committee. I would like to express my appreciation to the comesa secretary general, her excellency, ms. Chileshe mpundu kapwepwe for her stewardship and the entire comesa secretariat staff for organizing this meeting.

This is the first physical meeting of the intergovernmental committee since the advent of the covid-19 pandemic which restricted meetings to virtual platforms. Allow me to take this opportunity to warmly welcome you all to lusaka, zambia. I invite you to take time to enjoy the warm zambian hospitality.

Let me also take this opportunity to express thanks to the global, continental, and national leaders for the quick response in the production, supply and administration of covid vaccines that have reduced the risk and impact of the virus on the lives of people everywhere. Without the swift response, we would not be able to meet in this manner.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Against the backdrop of covid-19 coupled by food and energy insecurity caused by the russia/ukraine war, rising price of fuel, persistent threats of climate change and fragile multilateralism, we are reminded of the interdependence and integrated nature of our economies. These have also shown us as africans the need to unite, cooperate and integrate in order to take full responsibility of our own destiny.this is the reason why we need each other, and comesa to keep binding us together for our prosperity.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Comesa continues to play an important role in the development of economies through championing of regional economic and social integration initiatives towards the achievement of its vision; that is the improved living standards of all its people.

The 2021 – 2025 medium term strategic plan (mtsp) provides the guidance for the programmes of comesa by ensuring that all programmes are within the pillars of the strategic plan which include: market integration; productive integration; physical or infrastructure connectivity; gender and social integration; and an effective secretariat.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to note that comesa has continued to improve its trade facilitation instruments, including the electronic certificate of origin; support for the establisgment of one-stop border posts; automation of customs operations; upgrading of borders; elimination and resolution of non-tariff barriers; and other trade facilitation infrastructure to faciltitate the free movement of goods across the comesa borders. To enhance intra-regional and continental trade comesa needs to remain focused on improving its productive capacities across all sectors in member states. Other areas that need attention include agriculture production, food security, climate change and private sector development among others.

It is therefore necessary for the reggion to ensure that value addition and other agriculture programmes including seed development programmes, food safety, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical standards programmes, incentivizing private sector investments in agriculture, and esuring support to women and youth are effectively implemented as envisaged in the treaty.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

You will agree with me that the use of ict and digital tools is where the world is headed especially in the midst of several economic, political and social challenges. I therefore wish to urge all comesa member states not to get left behind with respect to digital transofrmation. I am aware that comesa is implementing initiatieves such as the online non-tariff barriers reporting and monitoring system, the online trade platform and the digital platform for women in business. I wish to commend secretariat for all the initiatives related to digital trade and call on member states and cooperating partners to support these initiatives to enhance intra regional and continental trade and the participation of women and youth.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I also note comesa’s active participation in the establishment of the tripartite free trade area for comesa, the east african community and the southern african development community. This has played a key role in the harmonization and standardization of regional trade policies that contribute towards resolving the challenge of multiplicity of memberships. Tremendous strides have been made by the tripartite committees responsible for market integration, infrastructure development and industrial development in furthering harmonization and standardization of integration in the three regions. Indeed, some key comesa-eac-sadc tripartite free trade area legal instruments immensely contributed towards progress in actualizing the african continental free trade area negotiations and the commencement of trading.

Excellencies; ladies and gentlemen,

This meeting presents an opportunity for comesa to take stock of its performance both within the region and outside the region and also consider the 2023 programmes and budgets for the same period.

Development cannot be complete if it is not inclusive. In this regard, the founding leaders of comesa directed that all programmes should be gender sensitive, and that stand-alone initiatives should be implemented to ensure active participation of women in the regional integration agenda.

We have noted the increasing efforts to address gender concerns in all programmes. For instance, the 2021- 2025 medium term strategic plan has embraced the international practice by mainstreaming gender in all its pillars and having a stand-alone pillar on gender and social integration. Comesa has continued to support gender mainstreaming, women and youth empowerment to ensure inclusive participation in development.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

For sustainable socio-economic integration to be realized, the maintenance of peace and security is cardinal. I am glad that comesa has continued to contribute towards improvements of governance, peace and security (and involvement of youth in various processes including inter-generational and high-level dialogues to include the voices of the youth. We should therefore continue to enhance the capacity and skills of our young women and men in the region.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

Allow me to briefly highlight some of the measures zambia is taking to stimulate socio-economic growth, create jobs, and ultimately improve the livelihoods of all citizens which also is the vision of comesa. The broad thematic areas of focus for zambia are: economic transformation and job creation; infrastructure development; human and social development; environmental sustainability; and good governance environment.

Economic success cannot happen without the creation of an enabling macroeconomic environment, promotion of private sector investments and creation of a conducive legal and administrative environment that is friendly to business.

The new dawn government will continue to implement policies and strategies that attract and secure investment in sectors that drive growth of our economy. These are sectors such as agriculture, mining, tourism, and manufacturing among others.

In addition, we shall also strive to ensure that all regional integration policies and strategies are adhered to in order to enhance trade between and among member states of comesa and the african continent.

As i conclude, i wish to appeal to you to continue to support the secretariat to enable it to discharge its roles and responsibilities. I am confident that you will have a successful meeting.

It is now my singular honour and privilege to declare this meeting of the ic officially open.

Thank you for your attention!

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