MINISTER of Commerce, Industry and Trade Margaret Mwanakatwe has called for concerted efforts in boosting intra-Africa trade.
Ms Mwanakatwe said she was saddened by reports of the low levels of intra- Africa trade with statistics showing that intra-Africa exports only accounted for 18 percent of Africa’s total exports.
She said inconsistent domestic laws among COMESA countries had also continued to increase uncertainties, imposed additional transaction and compliance costs for international businesses.
She said this in a speech read for her by Southern province permanent secretary Sibanze Simuchoba during the second diplomatic conference on competition and trade organised by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa(COMESA) at Protea hotel in Livingstone yesterday.
She said the objective of the two day conference was to engage COMESA ambassadors and other dignitaries on the implementation of COMESA regional integration programmes.
“You will agree with me that enhanced regional integration and the creation of necessary environment for economic growth and development in Africa is now an imperative.
“Regional integration programmes such as trade liberalization are a priority not only to the COMESA region, but to the African continent as a whole,”Ms Mwanakatwe said.
She expressed happiness that COMESA had recognised that boosting intra-regional trade required the adoption and implementation of efficient trade policies that enhanced the competitiveness of market players beyond national borders.
“We continue trading less amongst ourselves because our challenge remains that we are still producing and exporting commodities which are hardly value added and this is partly due to limited investments,” she said.
Ms Mwanakatwe said member countries needed to move towards a more holistic process of deeper regional integration in order to attract more investment.
“Challenges to achieving the full potential of the single market remain significant. A range of non-tariff and regulatory barriers, regional disparities and supply constraints still raise transaction costs and limit the movement of goods, services, people and capital within the region,” she said.
And COMESA competition commission board chairperson Thabisile Langa called on the diplomats to help push the agenda of a regional integrated market.
“To achieve a regional integrated market, does not only require compliance with the treaty obligations but above all, the political will among member states,” she said.