Thursday, May 27, 2021: Ministers of industry from the 21 COMESA Member States have approved the implementation strategy of the regional local content policy framework and the management of the Special Economic Zones and Industrial Parks.
The COMESA Local Content Policy Framework is aimed at helping to transform the region’s low productivity economies, from overreliance on export of unprocessed primary commodities with either little or no value addition, to competitive economies that produce, and export value added products.
With the approval, Member States will formulate similar policies to maximize local benefits from industrialization. Equally, the adopted framework of managing special economic zones (SEZ) and industrial parks will guide Member States when domesticating SEZ strategies and industrial parks at the national level.
In their communique, the Ministers committed to ensure the harmonized regional frameworks and guidelines are implemented in their respective countries.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting, the Minister of Industry and Commerce of Zimbabwe, Dr Sekai Nzenza, observed that despite high growth potential in the region, poverty, unemployment, low investment levels, and depressed aggregate demand among others, are prevalent.
“This is attributed to depressed industrialization in our region,” she stated adding that industrial development was critical in addressing the productive constraints towards the realization of inclusive and sustainable transformation of the region.
The approval of the frameworks will therefore enable the full implementation of the COMESA Industrialization Strategy and Action, which was adopted by the Ministers in 2019, to guide structural economic transformation of the region. Among its key component is the promotion of agriculture and value addition.
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The COMESA industrialization strategy is aligned with the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA3) whose guiding principles include: government ownership and leadership of the initiative; strengthened enabling business environment; prioritized sectors with high potential for growth; and strong partnerships for financial and non-financial resource mobilization at the multilateral, regional and bilateral levels.
On its part, COMESA Secretariat committed to continue providing a platform for lobbying international technical and financial assistance to support the special economic zones development.
“The initiatives will include supporting learning events and profiling some SEZ projects that could serve as regional centers of excellence,” said the Secretary General Ms. Chileshe Kapwepwe. “Besides, the Secretariat will promote the development of border economic zones and facilitate the needed technical assistance for their development, among others.”
During the meeting, the ministers also approved the regional Guidelines on Increasing Sustainable and Inclusive Industrial Production during and after COVID 19. This is recognition of the negative impact that COVID-19 has had on industrial production by disrupting regional and global value chains.
Among others, the guidelines provide for enhancement of digital transformation such as e-commerce and e-trade to reduce and avoid physical contacts during transaction within and across member States while at the same time cutting down on transaction costs.
In his closing remarks, Malawi Minister for Industry Hon. Roy Kachale, described the development of the frameworks as timely given the disruption occasioned by the COVID 19 pandemic.
“There is no better time than now when coming into effect of the African Continental Free Trade Area promises to offer an even greater opportunity for countries to widen their access to global supply chains and export higher value goods and services,” he said.
Heads of the delegation representing development and cooperating partners that addressed the meeting included the European Union, the World Bank, United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the International Trade Centre. Representatives from the private sector in region also participated in the meeting.