Prosper Ndlovu in Lusaka, Zambia
The African Trade Insurance (ATI) Agency, a specialised unit under the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), has supported businesses in member states to the tune of $35 billion and insured trade and investments worth 42,4 billion since its inception in 2000.
This is contained in a report presented to the 20th Comesa Heads of States and Government Summit, which ended here yesterday.
The Secretariat report indicates that the bloc’s financial services arms have registered positive growth in recent years and the trading community is scaling up efforts to grow its economies and foster robust economic integration.
The ATI was set up in year 2000 to underwrite political and commercial risk, which has been a major impediment to businesses’ ability to access long term financing and the region’s attractiveness to foreign direct investment.
“Since its inception in 2000 the African Trade Insurance Agency has supported business in Comesa participating countries to the tune of $35 billion and insured trade and investments totalling $2,4 billion,” outgoing Comesa secretary general, Mr Sindiso Ngwenya, told the gathering.
He said Comesa financial institutions presently have a combined balance sheet of more than $1 billion and mainly provide funding to the private sector.
According to the report, Comesa’s Trade and Development Bank had assets valued at $5,2 billion as at end 2017 compared to $1,2 billion in 2012.
The region’s other financial institution, Mr Ngwenya said, ZEP-RE (PTA Re-Insurance Company), has seen its shareholding grow from $5 million in the early 1990s when it was established to $225 million in 2017 with operations in spread across 55 countries in Africa and outside the continent.
“Cumulatively, ZEP-Re has underwritten $950 million in premiums and paid out over $450 million in claims. The three institutions complement one another,” said Mr Ngwenya.
Of all the regional economic communities in Africa, Comesa has the largest number of autonomous and semi-autonomous institutions that contribute to the implementation of the provisions of the articles of the treaty.
To date the bloc has 15 institutions that fall into three categories with respect to their functions and business namely; financial, advocacy and facilitation, and regulatory.
Comesa has increased her membership from 19 to 21 following the joining of Tunisia and Somalia, who were accepted into the grouping at the end of the Summit here yesterday. Meanwhile, a new secretary general, Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe, from Zambia has been appointed to replace Mr Ngwenya who has worked for Comesa since its inception in 1984. This year’s Comesa Summit ran under the theme; “Comesa-Towards Digital Economic Integration” and comes at a time when several steps are being taken within the bloc to digitise all production systems. Initiatives such as the Comesa Yellow Card scheme and the regional customs transit guarantee bond as well as the coming digital certificate of origin system are some of the flagship successes.