COMESA calls for increased intra-Africa trade

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The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has called for enhanced intra-African trade which had in the past remained disappointingly low compared to other regions.


COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said given the continent’s factor endowments and level of development, African’s trade potential has remained untapped.


Mr. Ngwenya noted that between 2007 and 2011, the average share of intra-African exploits in total merchandise exports in Africa was a mere 11 percent compared to 50 percent in developing Asia, 21 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean and 70 percent in Europe.


He said it was imperative therefore that the continent’s institutions such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Union and various regional economic communities work together to ensure that this potential is tapped.


The COMESA Secretary General said this in Lusaka today during the launch of the tripartite capacity building programme which is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB).


Mr. Ngwenya further said there was compelling evidence that intra-African trade has enormous potential to create employment, alleviate poverty and catalyse investment as well as foster economic growth and development in Africa.


He attributed the low performance of intra-African trade to among many other factors supply side constraints and the limited role of the private sector in regional integration initiatives.


He explained that the tripartite capacity building programme will directly address these short comings.


He said by identifying priority sectors for industrial development and enhancing innovation, research and development, the region will be addressing the challenges around capacities necessary for increased trade.


And Southern African Development Community (SADC) Director of Trade Boitumelo Gofhamodimo praised the AfDB for financing the establishment of the tripartite capacity building programme.


Ms. Gofhamodimo said the financial support has come at an opportune time when the region was trying to find means of driving the tripartite agenda forward.


Meanwhile, AfDB Zambia Resident Representative Freddie Kwesiga said the tripartite capacity building programme was a major milestone towards Africa’s integration.


Dr. Kwesiga said the project will ultimately contribute towards the removal of barriers particularly, to the movement of persons, goods and services.


He said this would therefore boost connectivity, resilience and economic integration among the 26 tripartite member states with a market size of 600 million people.