President Edgar Lungu says COMESA Heads of States should enhance efforts directed at creating vibrant economies whose economic benefits will be shared equally across the region and within member states.
Speaking at the official opening of the 20th Summit of the COMESA Heads of States and Government at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka yesterday, President Lungu also said while relying on markets from outside Africa to supply finished products, it was important for member states to make the region a hub for manufactured goods.
President Lungu and other present counterparts sung a Happy Birthday song for Malawian President Peter Mutharika who was celebrating his Birthday yesterday.
Meanwhile COMESA has elected Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe as its new Secretary General.
“As a region, we have expanded in terms of membership to become one of the most populous regional economic bodies with membership that spans from the north to the south, and among the eight recognised building blocks for Africa’s economic integration process. Our membership is poised to grow and as we witness the admission of Tunisia and re-admission of Somalia, this will bring membership to 21. This is indeed a commendable and significant achievement, which should be upheld. We can boast of having in place a functional and united market unified since the establishment of the COMESA free trade area in 2000, which together with several trade facilitation instruments has tremendously contributed to the seamless flow of trade across the COMESA region. We have worked tirelessly indeed together to establish a politically and economically stable regional environment, and as such gained confidence among cooperating partners and investors,” President Lungu said.
He said member states cannot continue to trade in raw commodities among themselves hence stressed the need to make the region a hub for manufactured goods.
“Going forward, we must uphold this leadership role and further enhance efforts directed at creating vibrant economies whose economic benefits will be shared equally across the region and within our respective countries. I believe we have taken the right decision to embrace the digital age as reflected in this year’s summit theme. Technology has proven to be a vital catalyst for accelerated growth and development, where the right institutions, resources and capabilities exist. We, therefore, have a challenge before us to put in place necessary support structures and resources to ensure that our economies are not left behind in this digital age,” he said.
President Lungu said the goal of COMESA member states should be to create a conducive environment which would enable the private sector to generate the necessary financing to invest in value addition.
“Every common man on the street deserves a descent livelihood and it can only be through collective effort that we can make it happen for the ordinary man or woman on the street. Our goal should not be limited to assisting individuals to have food on the table, but to create a conducive environment which will enable our private sector to generate the necessary financing to invest in value addition and make our region a hub for manufactured products. We cannot continue to trade in raw commodities among ourselves, while relying on markets outside the African continent to supply us with finished products from our very own resources obtained from our region,” he said.
President Lungu also noted that COMESA had emerged as one of the strong and influential regional economic communities on the African continent.
“Today, COMESA is among the most attractive investment destinations on the African continent. It is also a well-known fact that COMESA has emerged as one of the strong and influential regional economic communities on the African continent with membership cutting across the African continent. We cannot continue to trade in raw commodities among ourselves, while relying on markets outside the African continent to supply us with finished products from our very own resources obtained from our region. I am certain and confident that during our two days of deliberations, we shall emerge out of this assembly with clear policy decisions to guide our technocrats as we pursue our regional integration process. This is to ensure that COMESA continues to provide the necessary leadership in advancing Africa’s economic aspirations. We cannot afford to back peddle in our integration process. Our objective should be to move towards new economic trajectories with less dependence on foreign capital and place our region on the path of enhanced and sustained economic growth and development,” President Lungu said.
He also said that Zambia remained committed to the integration process under COMESA.
And outgoing COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said COMESA financial institutions had a combined balance sheet of more than one billion United States dollars.
“The theme of this year’s summit of ‘COMESA towards digital economic integration’ is currently being implemented through several interventions which have already seen the digitisation of the COMESA yellow card and regional customs transit guarantee bond. In the coming months, member states with the support of the secretariat will be rolling out the digital certificate of origin to mention but a few. These acclaimed trade facilitation instruments are intended to reduce costs and improve competitiveness by creating a COMESA borderless economy through the use and application of information communications technologies and software applications,” said Ngwenya.
“The COMESA financial institutions have a combined balance sheet of more than one billion united states dollars. They mainly provide funding to the private sector. The case in point is the Trade and Development Bank whose assets were 5.2 billion united states dollars in 2017, compared with 1.2 billion united states dollars in 2012. The other institution, ZEP-RE (PTA re insurance company) has seen its shareholding grow from 5 million United States dollars in the early 1990’s when it was established to 225 million United States dollars in 2017 with operations in 55 countries in Africa and outside the continent of Africa. Cumulatively, ZEP-RE has underwritten 950 million United States dollars in premiums and paid out over 450 million United States dollars in claims. With regard to the African trade insurance agency that underwrites political and commercial risk since its inception in 2000 the African trade insurance agency has supported business in COMESA participating countries to the tune of 35 billion united states dollars and insured trade and investments totalling 2.4 billion united states dollars.”