Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister Chipoka Mulenga has urged COMESA member states to begin investing in each other.
Speaking during the 43rd COMESA Inter-Governmental Committee Meeting in Lusaka today held under the theme ‘Building Resilience Through Digital Economic Integration’, Mr Mulenga disclosed that African countries have concentrated on trading with each other at the expense of investment, adding that countries in the continent should complement each other and not compete so they can fit in the missing link.
“This is the reason why we need each other, and COMESA to keep binding us together for our prosperity, as COMESA continues to play an important role in the development of economies through championing of regional economic and social integration initiatives towards the achievement of its vision, that is the improved living standards of all its people,” he said
Mr Mulenga mentioned that in the midst of several economic, political and social challenges, COMESA member states should not be left behind in embracing digital transformation as COMESA has created digital initiatives such as the online non-tariff barriers reporting monitoring systems, and online trade platforms that enable easy trade.
“I wish to commend secretariat for all the initiatives related to digital trade and call on member states and cooperating partners to support these initiatives to enhance intra regional and continental trade and the participation of women and youth,” he said
He noted that COMESA has continued to improve its trade facilitation instruments, including the electronic certificate of origin, support for the establishment of one-stop border posts, automation of customs operations, upgrading of borders, elimination and resolution of non-tariff barriers, and other trade facilitation infrastructure to facilitate the free movement of goods across the COMESA borders.
He added that to enhance intra-regional and continental trade, COMESA needs to remain focused on improving its productive capacities across all sectors in member states, as areas such as agriculture production, food security, climate change, and private sector development among others need attention.
“It is, therefore, necessary for the region to ensure that value addition and other agriculture programmes including seed development programmes, food safety, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical standards programmes, incentivizing private sector investments in agriculture, and ensuring support to women
and youth are effectively implemented as envisaged in the treaty,” he noted
The Minister said that he has also noted COMESA’s active participation in the establishment of the tripartite free trade area for COMESA, the East African community and the Southern African development community, which has played a key role in the harmonization and standardization of regional trade policies that contribute towards resolving the challenge of multiplicity of memberships, as tremendous strides have been made by the tripartite committees responsible for market integration, infrastructure development and industrial development in furthering harmonization and standardization of integration in the three regions.
“Indeed, some key comesa-eac-sadc tripartite free trade area legal instruments immensely contributed towards progress in actualizing the African continental free trade area negotiations and the commencement of trading,” he said
Mr Mulenga cited that they will strive to ensure that all regional integration policies and strategies are adhered to in order to enhance trade between and among member states of comesa and the African continent.
Speaking at the same event, COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe said that the Covid-19 pandemic and the global geo-political conflicts that have caused disruption to supply chains for essential commodities, calls for more collaboration in strengthening economic and trade integration in response to the current crises.
“We have made major strides in simplifying administrative process under the COMESA free trade area and in the coming year, we will be rolling our further innovations on electronic exchanges of documents related to import and export functions as we strengthen the COMESA digital FTA,” she said
Ms Kapwepwe added that to increase formal small scale border trade, and ensure increased income for small traders of which most of them are women, COMESA has implemented various policies and instruments for small scale traders including the simplified trade regime, trade facilitation and human mobility, border specific action plans, as they intend to construct border markets at selected borders in target member states, and provide convenient trading spaces for small scale cross border traders.