Various stakeholders have expressed optimism at the forthcoming 22nd Heads of State Summit for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) which begins on June 8, 2023 in Lusaka.
Center for Trade and Policy Development (CTPD) Researcher Emmanuel Muma says he expects the Summit to discuss and provide practical policies that will enhance integration beyond COMESA member states.
Mr. Muma observed that regional integration among COMESA member states has been affected by lack of value addition on local products thereby affecting trade among member states and other continental groupings.
He said lack of value addition affected acceptance of products from member countries on grounds of quality and standards.
Speaking in an interview with ZANIS, in Lusaka, Mr. Muma welcomed the discussion around the green economy as indicated in the theme.
He said his organisation expects active participation of most African countries by committing huge investment in the green economy.
“We even anticipate that most of the economies by now should be investing in green economy investments such as renewable energies and even solar panels and biogas because these are some of the investments especially when you’re talking about green investments that are responsible for protecting our environment,” he said.
Mr Muma further urged Heads of State and other delegates to the 22 nd COMESA Summit to consider making technology accessible and affordable especially for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s).
He argued that most SMEs growth is hampered by lack of technology and incentives that can be used to enhance their products and make them competitive at international platforms.
“I think most of our production, if you even check within Zambia, you will find that a lot of SMEs are trained to do one or two things but they don’t receive the much needed support to the incentives and technologies are not there to encourage them to grow from being a small scale to maybe a large enterprise through access to technology,” he added.
Mr. Muma also said the cost and lack of appropriate technology is a huge challenge to up-coming businesses and requires regional aggression to find a solution to these and many trade impediments in the region.
Meanwhile, Governance, Elections, Advocacy and Research Services (GEARS) Advisory Council Chairperson Lackson Lungu said COMESA Member Countries must start appreciating each other’s products by buying from among Member States.
Mr. Lungu said that the inclusion of value addition in the theme means a lot to small scale private entities.
He stated that it was not in order for people to complain about lack of a market for their products when there is a market within COMESA.
Mr. Lungu further cited products such as soya beans which should always have a market within COMESA where the product can be bought and sold.
“Our desire as GEARS is that countries must start appreciating the products that each and every member country is producing and be able to provide a market for each other,” said Mr. Lungu.
The GEARS representative said there is a need for COMESA to find means and ways of empowering private entrepreneurs and to establish various value addition centres that will improve the quality of products from the Member States.
The theme for the 22nd COMESA Heads of State Summit which opens in Lusaka on June 6 and runs to June 8, 2023, is “Economic Integration for a Thriving COMESA Anchored on Green investment, Value Addition and Tourism.”