Intra-COMESA exports shoot up COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe

Elita Chikwati Herald Reporter

Intra-COMESA exports have increased from US$1.5 billion in 2000 to US$12.8 billion in 2021 as part of the significant achievements under the free trade area regime.

This came out at the two-day 10th COMESA Annual Research Forum which started yesterday in Lusaka Zambia.

The event is part of efforts to strengthen integration and trade in the region and the African continent.

The two-day event running under the theme, “30 Years of COMESA Regional Integration: Retrospect and Prospects” has brought together policy makers, academia, think tanks and the private sector to discuss emerging topical issues in regional integration.

Speaking at the opening of the forum, Secretary General of COMESA, Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe said:

“Despite this growth, intra-COMESA exports remain low at about nine percent of its total exports. Recent studies indicate that inter-COMESA export potential is in excess of US$100 billion,” she noted.

She added that a lot more work, including research was required to unlock the potential and enable Member States to better utilise the preferences embedded in the Free Trade Area regime.

Some of the constraints hindering exploitation of the export potential include weak productive capacities, poor infrastructure connectivity, high transport costs, non or slow implementation of COMESA free trade agreement, non-tariff barriers, and trading in similar products.

Ms Kapwepwe described the forum as one of the key avenues through which COMESA Secretariat harnesses knowledge and policy insights from eminent scholars, researchers, academics, and policy makers.

As the regional bloc approaches its 30th anniversary next year, she said it was important to take stock of its regional integration journey, its achievements, its challenges, and the prospects for promotion of further regional economic integration as an instrument for sustainable economic growth and development.

Assistant secretary general of COMESA in charge of programmes, Dr Mohamed Kadah, assured the participants that the outputs forum would be integrated in planning for regional integration programmes to be implemented.

Executive secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), Mr Mamadou Biteye applauded COMESA for maintaining the research since it was initiated in 2014 with funding from his organisation.

He underscored his organisation’s commitment to continue the supporting capacity building.

Other organisations that have supported the research forum include the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and the European Union.

The 10th COMESA Annual Research Forum is also meant to build capacity initiatives in economic and trade policy research and analysis to strengthen integration and trade in COMESA region and the African continent.

The forum is also intended to narrow the gap between academia, private sector and policy makers in economic integration and regional trade policy formulation process.

COMESA is a regional economic community established in 1994 that brings together 21 African Member States with a population of over 600 million people into a cooperative framework for sustainable economic growth and prosperity through regional integration.

A total of eight research papers which have been prepared by researchers from across the African region will be presented at forum.

Key topics in focus include the role of the COMESA Free Trade Area in promoting trade efficiency, value added production and market linkages in COMESA and the Nexus between trade, trade policy and climate change adaptability.

Also topical will be the role of transport (road, rail, air and maritime) and intra-COMESA trade; Digitalisation and small-scale enterprises/ cross border trade in COMESA and Emerging trends in circular economy in COMESA.

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