New COMESA Industrialization policy in focus

By Claire Wanja

The 35th meeting of the COMESA Intergovernmental Committee opened in Lusaka with a call on Member States to address bottlenecks that are hindering intra-regional trade, such as supply side constraints and non-tariff barriers (NTBs).

The meeting brings together Permanent/Principal Secretaries from all the 19 Member States and is also attended by representatives of the development partners and heads of COMESA semi-autonomous institutions.

The IC meeting is one of the key COMESA Policy organs and will take three days mainly reviewing the status of implementation of all COMESA approved priority programmes in the Member States and the provisions of the COMESA Treaty

Deputy Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry of Zambia Hon. Raymond Mpundu, opened the meeting held at the COMESA Secretariat.

In his statement, he attributed the low intra-regional trade as partly due to trade in similar products that compete for the same market within the Member States. He said that the COMESA Industrial Policy which has now been finalized holds the key to unlocking the trade potential through harnessing value addition.

“The policy has approaches which focus on commodity value addition as well as skills based industrialization, among others,” he said. “Value addition will address this challenge while empowering our small enterprises leading to diversification of intra- COMESA exports, which in turn will spur intra-regional investment and job creation

The development of the COMESA Industrial Policy was in compliance with the decision of the 33rd Council of Ministers that met in Addis Ababa in March 2015.

The Minister acknowledged the challenges that Member States were facing in implementing some of the agreed COMESA programmes and in particular those that require policy and regulatory framework amendments such as the Customs Union. Among them, the loss of revenue, industry un-competitiveness or low levels of industrialization

He thanked COMESA-EU funded programme of Regional Integration Support Mechanism (RISM) which provides budget and project support to Member States in addition to the Technical Cooperation Facility (TCF) under European Development Fund (EDF 11).

“This has contributed towards providing mitigation measures to assist Member States to implement their regional obligations by addressing some of these challenges,” Hon Mpundu noted.

In his address, Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya informed the meeting that the total support to Member States under RISM and the Technical Cooperation Facility for 2015 was 12 million Euros.

“This brings the total disbursement from 2012 to 2015 to 62 million Euros,” said Mr Ngwenya adding that COMESA achievements would not have been possible without the support and cooperation from cooperating partners and the regional economic communities under the African Union.

The Secretary General observed that despite the excitement generated by academicians, economic commentators and political leaders a few years ago about “Africa Rising”, the reality on the ground was different.

“The Africa Rising narrative described appearances and not the substance of our economies that are characterized by wrong specialization in the global economy of producing and exporting low value primary commodities with little or no processing as evidence by the abysmally low percentage of the contribution of industry to the national and regional gross domestic product,” he said.

Mr Ngwenya said the answer to this challenge was in part, the implementation of the COMESA Industrial policy and other provisions of the COMESA Treaty on infrastructure, energy, agriculture, Natural resource management and environment, science and technology and human resource development.

The report of the Intergovernmental Committee will be presented to the COMESA Council of Ministers that will take place Monday and Tuesday next week in Lusaka, Zambia.


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