The 22nd COMESA Summit presented an opportunity for the COMESA Secretariat to brief the Heads of State on the state of integration and the milestones that have been covered this far.
In a state of integration report, Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe detailed the key developments and achievements in the past year focusing on the market integration and physical integration pillars.
Under trade liberalization, she noted that the membership to the COMESA Free Trade Area has remained at 16 States with the four countries the DR Congo, Eritrea, Eswatini and Somalia at different stages of full liberalisation.
“There was significant increase in COMESA’s trade globally and within the region above the pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels,” the SG said. “The value of COMESA’s total exports to the world significantly increased by 56% from US$ 100 billion in 2020 to US$ 156 billion in 2021. The sectors that contributed to this increase were manufactures, fuels, ores and metals and food.”
The value of Intra-COMESA total exports increased by 28% from US$ 10 billion in 2020 to US$ 13 billion in 2021. Key exports include palm oil, cement, copper ores and concentrates, beet/cane sugar, live animals and petroleum oils.
Among the largest exporting countries in the COMESA region, are Egypt, DR Congo, Tunisia, Seychelles, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Zambia. They registered a combined increase of 41% in exported manufactured products in 2021 compared to 2020.
On the liberalization of Trade in Services, she highlighted the Secretariat’s continued support the negotiations in six priority areas in business, financial, transport, communications, tourism construction and energy services.
On trade facilitation, implementation of trade facilitation instruments to overcome barriers and accelerate intra-regional trade and investments has been strengthened with financial support from European Union, World Bank, African Development Bank, Afrexim Bank, and others.
On the Tripartite Free Trade Area, she engagement with countries that have not ratified it has been ongoing. The goal is to get three more signatures to attain the required threshold of 14 countries to enable the agreement to enter in force. Currently a total of 26 signatures and 11 ratifications have been received.
In the efforts to strengthen democratic governance, inclusivity and promote peace and stability, she underlined COMESA’s continued support towards entrenching good governance which is the foundation of peace and security. Activities under this initiative included mounting election observer missions to Member States that have been conducting elections.
The report also highlighted some of the key challenges and constraints that have been experienced in the implementation of programmes. They include slow and delayed domestication of agreed protocols, proliferation of non-tariff barriers, low levels of value addition, slow harmonization/weak coordination of multiple integration arrangements, restrictions to free movement of persons, labour and services and technical and financial constraints.
Going forward, the Secretary General urged Member States to eradicate barriers to trade, free movement of people, strengthen connectivity and invest in clean technologies to achieve the desired intra-regional trade and sustainable economic development.
News Source: https://www.comesa.int/comesa-sg-outlines-key-achievements-in-the-region/ by Mwangi Gakunga
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