THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa’s Zimbabwean secretary general Mr Sindiso Ngwenya’s tenure at the helm of the economic bloc is coming to an end next year.
Mr Ngwenya is the fifth secretary- general of Comesa since it was transformed from the PTA in 1994. He joined the institution in 2008.
“Comesa will appoint a new secretary general next year 2018, through a competitive process. This is after the expiry of the tenure of the current chief executive,” said Comesa director of Trade and Customs Dr Francis Mangeni in a research paper availed to this publication.
With 19 countries, a geographical size of 11.6 million square kilometres, a combined Gross Domestic Product of $755 billion and a population of 520 million, Comesa makes up a third of Africa.
It is the largest regional economic body in Africa and has enormous potential, for instance $82,4 billion in unutilised intra-Comesa trade opportunities. Dr Mangeni in the paper said the new SG will find an organisation that has robust trade framework that promotes transparency, predictability and planning; as well as policy and regulatory frameworks in areas of industrialisation, surface and air transport, energy, agriculture, information technology and communication technology.
“Naturally though, as with many institutions, he or she will find challenges to mop up, especially low ownership by the countries, personnel and recruitment management, financial stewardship and resource mobilisation.
“Depending on his or her level of ambition, he or she might wish to position Comesa as a base in a technology and finance driven global economy,” said Dr Mangeni.
“Gravitas and political influence across the region, sound analytics, courage, fair play, prudence, and complex problem solving skills will therefore be handy.” Dr Mangeni said a person possessing this sort of capital is usually a former head of government, minister or chief executive who is savvy in inter-governmental evidence-based policy making and demonstrable development practice.
Focusing on trade and investment, Dr Mangeni said Comesa established the first free trade area in Africa on October 31, 2000 and has pioneered several trade facilitation instruments.
These include regional road standards for vehicle dimensions and axle loads, road user charges, carriers’ licence and transit freedom that create a regional transportation market.
Others include the automated system for customs data, single administrative customs documentation, regional transit bond system, regional third party motor insurance, and flexible rules of origin, which have facilitated trade and reduced the cost of doing business. Dr Mangeni said its system of resolving trade disputes has been successful with 204 trade disputes reported since 2008 being resolved except five currently outstanding.
A number of Comesa’s trade and investment institutions according to Dr Mangeni have performed beyond expectation, becoming continental or global, such as its Trade and Development Bank, the African Trade Insurance Agency, the Reinsurance Company and the Leather Institute; as well as a regional competition Commission (being only the second in the world after the European Competition Commission) and a business council. Comesa also has a regional court of justice, which has produced important jurisprudence on regional trade in a free trade area, clarifying the rules.