Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Executive Secretary Chileshe Kapwepwe says COMESA’s highly import-dependent and small manufacturing and industrial sectors were devastated as operational capacity dwindled due to the disrupted import lines for spares and production inputs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Kapwepwe noted that growth in the COMESA region declined from 5 percent in 2018 to 3.1 percent in 2020.
Ms Kapwepwe was speaking during the 27th meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts (ICSOE) of Southern Africa hosted in malawi and held virtually in the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECA) Member States under the theme” building back better from Covid-19 in Southern Africa: Fostering Commodity-based industrialization, Manufacturing and Regional Value Chains”.
“We have noted with appreciation the commendable efforts by Member States to address the fall out from the pandemic through fiscal and monetary stimuli which have gone a long way in cushioning the adverse effects”, she said.
Ms. Kapwepwe however disclosed that the growth prospects remain modest due to the slow access and roll-out of vaccines in the region.
Ms.Kapwepwe said industrialization anchored on the diverse regional commodity base of agricultural value chains products and minerals driven by the private sector is the pillar for regional trade, economic growth and inclusive development.
She explained that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) Agreement will spur development and linkages to the various markets.
“Value addition of commodities and the pursuit of value chains development can and will continue to play in rescuing our economies from the Covid-19 induced economic downturn”, she added.
She further said COMESA believes in the central role of the private sector in unlocking the developmental value in commodities.
Ms. Kapwepwe urged the Member States to develop conducive operational environments guided by attendant regional frameworks including the COMESA Common Investment Area.
She said it is important for countries to eliminate barriers and impediments to the active participation of the private sector through the creation of a harmonized competitive policy environment across the region.
Speaking during the official opening of the event, Malawian Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu said the pandemic has impacted negatively on the economies and called on countries to double their efforts and accelerate intensified roll out of vaccines to the citizens in order to curb the pandemic.
Mr. Mlusu said there is need for countries to promote inclusiveness and reduced inequality due to covid 19 and make decent job creation a priority.
He said countries must diversify their economic base and address key challenges to economic growth through industrialization and leveraging digital solutions.
And United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Economic Affairs Officer Bineswaree Bolaky called on member countries to accelerate commodity based industrialization, manufacturing and regional value chain development in order to recover from the effects of Covid-19.