President Edgar Lungu with other Heads of State after the official opening of the 20th Summit of the Comesa Heads of State and Government

Vice President Inonge Wina has expressed happiness with strides and commitment made by Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member States in actualizing the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) and the African Continental Free Trade (ACFTA) agreements.

And the Vice President says in as much as COMESA developed excellent instruments and policies all aimed at improving integration and boosting intra-COMESA trade, the region continues to face a number of challenges.

Mrs. Wina disclosed that with 22 countries having signed the agreement and four having ratified them, it will give a new impetus in the integration of the African continent.

“ There is now need for the member states to further increase their attractiveness of the region for the market-seeking investments, “ she said.

The Vice President was speaking in Lusaka today, when she officially opened the 39th COMESA Council of Ministers meeting.

One of the achievements of the COMESA free trade area which consists of is almost 17 out of 21 countries when Tunisia and Somalia ratify the treaty is the COMESA global exports which rose by 16.1 percent from 87 billion United States dollars in 2016 to US$ 101 billion in 2017 and the intra- exports rose by 3.7 from 8.8 billion USD in 2016 to 9.2 billion in 2017.

And the Vice President said in as much as COMESA developed excellent instruments and policies which are all aimed at improving integration and boosting intra-COMESA trade, the region continues to face a number of challenges.

Among these are the implementation of regional commitments and full-scale participation of all member states in COMESA programmes as one area that still requires improvement.

“ The integration is a collective effort, whose benefits can only be achieved when majority of the member states fully engage themselves in various activities that are currently in place, “ she said adding : “ low level of transposition of regional instruments by some member states at national level are negatively affecting the implementation of certain programmes. “

Meanwhile, Mrs. Wina said infrastructure plays a vital role in enhancing economic development and poverty reduction in the COMESA region.

She however, called for collective efforts by all members to address the infrastructure gaps in order to accelerate regional economic development.

Earlier COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwewe has called on the member states to expedite the process of ratifying the tripartite agreement for ACFTA for it to be enforced.

Ms. Kapwewe said this is because the tripartite agreement takes developmental approach to regional integration by including free trade area, industrlisation and infrastructure.

COMESA provides a framework for coming together to tackle development challenges in order to achieve peace and prosperity in the region which makes up a third of Africa and well positioned to influence decisions in Africa and World as a whole, she pointed out.

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