The 32nd Meeting of the COMESA Council of Bureau of Ministers took place on 15 April 2020. The virtual meeting was chaired by the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Handcraft of Madagascar Madame Lantosoa Rakotomalala Chairperson of the COMESA Council of Ministers.
Key issues on the agenda included the COMESA’s response to the COVID – 19 pandemic, preparation for the 2020 COMESA Summit, status of Member States contributions, update on the acquisition of new COMESA Headquarters, and human resource matters for Secretariat staff.
In attendance were the H.E. Mr. Tarek Chalabi, Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry of Egypt and Vice Chairperson and State Minister of Trade and Industry of Ethiopia H.E. Ambassador Mesganu Arga Moach, the Rapporteur of the Bureau.
Addressing the bureau, Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe recognized the tremendous challenges that Member States are facing and their efforts to preserve life and public health whilst mitigating adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment and businesses.
“The Secretariat is working on measures to support your efforts in mitigating the effects of the pandemic on our Member States economies. Such measures include developing guidelines that will ensure that intra-COMESA trade continues without impediments especially in terms of essential goods such as food, fuel, medicines and medical equipment,” the SG informed the Bureau.
The proposed policy interventions, she said, are aimed at supporting Member States manage the pandemic so as to reduce its adverse impact and its aftermath. Key interventions identified include support to Member States in carrying out cross border trade and facilitating trade along key transport corridors as an essential component of building countries` resilience towards containing COVID-19 and impacts on livelihoods.
In addition, the speedy implementation of the COMESA Digital Free Trade Area has been identified as critical in ensuring that trade especially for essential supplies continues through online and digital transactions given the physical restrictions that are currently in place.
Further, COMESA is working with the African Union and other Regional Economic Communities in coming up with harmonized efforts to address the challenges of the pandemic.
The Chairperson noted that as COMESA re-focuses its activities at this time, it should take into account the need to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Member States.
“Within the framework of preserving public health, essential goods such as medicine, food, fuel and other similar items should still be able to reach areas which require them,” Hon Rakotomalala said.
On the COMESA Summit, the Bureau asked the Secretariat and the Government of Egypt to continue engaging on the matter given the prevailing circumstances. Egypt is host of the 2020 Summit, which was expected to take place in the second half of the year.
The report of the Bureau will be presented before the Council of Ministers meeting which is now under preparation