KIGALI - Rwanda has taken over from Mauritius as the chair of the COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) Fund that was established to mobilize resources for development projects in member states.
Rwanda assumed the top seat during the meeting of the Fund’s committee members in Kigali yesterday.
The Fund which is used as an instrument of aid for trade addresses productive capacity and infrastructure needs.
Speaking to The New Times, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, John Rwangombwa , who will chair the Fund, said he intends to increase membership of the Fund among member countries pointing out that not all the 19 member countries of the regional bloc have joined.
“One of my priorities will be increasing membership, and to ensure that we will come up with clear and viable projects that will enhance regional integration,” he said.
The fund also encompasses an infrastructure window intended to mobilize resources for the construction and maintenance of infrastructure, and for addressing some of the limited productive capacity of its individual member states
“Identifying the key infrastructure projects that are required to deepen this regional integration is also a priority,” Rwangombwa said.
The fund has an adjustment facility to address costs that may arise from implementing regional integration measures, including trade.
Last year, due to the anticipated revenue loss of Rwf12 billion as a result of adopting the East African Community External Tariff in the Customs Union, the government received $15.5 million (60 percent) from the Fund as part of the compensation.
However Rwangombwa said that this year the government would carry out an assessment of the revenue loss to claim the remaining 40 percent compensation from the Fund.
Speaking at the meeting, Sindiso Ngwenya, the Secretary General of COMESA underscored the need for the regional bloc to implement the infrastructure fund and support the adjustment facility.
“Effective structures need to be set up for the Infrastructure Fund. We now need to expand the support of the adjustment facility that will see increased support and more effective implementation of regional programmes at the national level,” he said.
Ngwenya pointed out that investors, including pension funds and sovereign funds, have shown interest in the Fund.
“It is clear that there is considerable interest shown by investors in African investment opportunities. We need to translate this good–will into hard cash and to do this, we need to have a portfolio of bankable projects,” he said.
The COMESA Fund currently is worth 70 million Euros with the largest donor being the European Commission.