By Derrick Silimina
COMESA member states have endorsed the need to promote intra-regional trade, addressing climate change, industrialization, value addition, peace and security.
Speaking during the just ended 22nd COMESA Summit which was held on Thursday in Lusaka, leaders of the regional economic bloc validated the need to prioritize issues for the region.
Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema who took over the chair of the regional economic bloc from President Fattah El Sisi of Egypt said his priority is to promote free flow of trade, joint investments by exploiting the immense opportunities within the region.
Hichilema observed that slowed growth rates and food insecurity affects many parts of the region which he attributed to the effects of climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, and political instability caused by conflict situations.
“We have a mammoth task ahead to take stock of where we are and define growth paths that are resilient to exogenous forces,” he said, noting that many of the countries in the region are saddled with a high debt burden, unemployment and economic stagnation.
“It is therefore incumbent upon ourselves to combine our resources to promote trade and investment that will support sustainable growth and create jobs,” the head of state added.
In his address as the outgoing chair, President El Sisi appreciated the commitment of Member States to achieve full integration as witnessed by the steady focus that has been maintained through his tenure.
Sisi highlighted some of the programmes whose implementation is ongoing including the implementation of trade facilitation instruments such as digitization of customs clearances, removal of non-tariff barriers and support to small scale traders and empowerment of vulnerable groups-women, youth and disabled people.
“Notwithstanding the challenges that our countries have faced in the recent period, our integration agenda has remained on course,” Sisi said.
The Egyptian head of state further noted that industrialization through the COMESA industrialization strategy remains at the core of the integration agenda and central to the diversification of regional economic growth.
In his maiden speech as a new member of the COMESA Authority of Heads of State and Government, President William Ruto of Kenya said the entire world is saddled with enormous and intertwined economic, geopolitical and climatic crises which have exerted enormous adverse impacts on the continent and COMESA region.
Ruto stated that the promotion of green investment to power a zero-carbon global industrial order is a priority.
“Through robust policy, we have taken positive measures to construct an investment climate that attracts high quality global capital to our economy, and to promote a business environment that encourages value addition and secondary manufacturing,” Ruto said.
The Kenyan head of state stressed that green investment is one area of unexplored opportunity to pursue socioeconomic development incorporating ecologically sound and environmentally responsible practices.
Meanwhile, President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi, who also presented this maiden statement stressed the need for Member States to move with speed on the key pillars of economic integration including working together to increase productive capacities in key sectors such as agriculture, tourism, and mining, liberalizing and harmonizing processes for facilitating the movement of goods and people across borders; developing and synchronizing infrastructural, transport, energy, digital, and financial among other systems to cutting out inefficiencies and illegalities that are used to defraud COMESA member states.
The theme of this year’s Summit is “Economic integration for a thriving COMESA, anchored on green investment, value addition and tourism” which the Secretary General of COMESA, Chileshe Kapwepwe described as timely after a period of turbulence caused by Covid-19 pandemic, conflict in Europe and effects of climate change.