Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) technical officials are currently meeting in Lusaka, Zambia ahead of the bloc’s 20th Heads of State Summit next week.
The meeting which opened on Tuesday this week is being attended by 17 of the 19 COMESA states.
The three-day 38th Inter-Governmental Committee meeting is among other things discussing the implementation of regional integration programmes and activities.
The meeting precedes the Ministerial and the actual Summit scheduled for July 18 to 19.
According to the COMESA Secretariat, this year’s Summit is running under the theme “COMESA: Towards Digital Economic Integration.”
The focus is on establishing seamless processes across the COMESA region to enable ease of doing business or trade among member States and thus contribute to enhancing regional integration.
The Inter-Governmental Committee is responsible for the development of COMESA programmes and action plans pertaining to regional integration.
The committee meeting will also review reports on the implementation of regional integration programmes and make recommendations to the Council of Ministers that will meet over the weekend.
Zambia’s acting Minister of Commerce and Industry, Matthew Nkhuwa, said that since the establishment of the bloc’s Free Trade Area in 2000, Intra-COMESA total exports increased from $ 1.5 billion in the year 2000 to $ 9.6 billion in 2015.
“Several COMESA countries recorded notable positive growths in their 2016 global exports, these include Djibouti (204 per cent), Comoros (109 per cent), Uganda and Madagascar (10 per cent), Sudan (8 per cent) and Burundi (6 per cent). Regarding imports, COMESA countries that recorded growths in their 2016 global imports were Seychelles (62 per cent), Djibouti (57 per cent), Sudan (2 per cent) and Ethiopia (1 per cent),” Nkhuwa said.
However, a slight decline of $1.6 billion was recorded in 2016 due to, among others, drought, which affected most of the countries especially in Eastern Africa.
The minister observed that COMESA has been focusing on continuing to build consensus of the Member States concerning outstanding Customs Union and trade facilitation instruments.
The bloc is also keen on facilitating the process of harmonisation and domestication of the Custom Union instruments.
This, he said, has resulted in increased alignment by Member States of the Customs Union instruments.”
COMESA Secretary General, Sindiso Ngwenya, said that with the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in March 2018, a new stimulus for integrating the continent had been unleashed.
“We have always viewed the COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA) and the launch of the Tripartite FTA in 2015 as fast- tracks to the continental FTA,” said Ngwenya.