Lusaka, Friday 23 November 2018: International organisations and the United States Government attending the 39th Intergovernmental Committee Meeting have pledged to work closely with COMESA to support the introduction of instruments that will further facilitate intra-regional trade in the 21-regional economic bloc.
The representatives of the organizations revealed this in Lusaka today during the opening of the Policy Organs Meeting which is made up of Permanent and Principal Secretaries from Coordinating Ministries in Member States.
Head of the European Union Delegation in Zambia Ambassador Alessandro Mariani who was first to deliver his statement, said inclusive growth and economic development of the African continent are strategic priorities for the European Union.
In May this year, the EU-funded COMESA Cross Border Trade Programme was officially launched at the Mwami/Mchinji Border between Zambia and Malawi. The 15 million Euros project focuses on facilitating the informal small scale cross border trade.
On November 20, 2018, another flagship regional programme worth 53 million Euros was signed with COMESA. The programme will provide financial and technical support to a wide range of trade related activities including non-tariff barriers, support the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, upgrade cross border management, harmonise SPS measures and support various trade negotiations and trade promotion activities.
“With these two new trade programmes now operational, focus should be on ensuring an efficient, timely and effective implementation of the agreed actions so to achieve tangible results and make a difference in the life of people in the COMESA region,” Ambassador Mariani said.
US Ambassador Daniel Foote reiterated his government’s commitment to work with COMESA to bring greater economic and social development to the more than 500 million people of this region.
The US government has collaborated with COMESA on food security and economic integration initiatives that have strengthened regional seed systems, improved animal, plant and food safety systems and supported private sector linkages.
“Harmonized seed regulations, for example, has enabled better access to quality varieties with increased crop resistance and higher yields,” Ambassador Forte said.
The COMESA-US partnership began 20 years ago when the first funded development activities were launched. So far, 12 Funded Agreements have been signed with the most recent being signed in September this year. The US$2 million four-year new agreement is a Fixed Amount Award approach under which payments to COMESA are based on achievement of mutually agreed upon milestones. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Regional Director for Southern Africa Mr Charles Kwenin commended COMESA for having adopted two protocols focusing on the gradual relaxation and eventual elimination of visas and the free movement of persons, labour, services, right of establishment and residence.
In a statement delivered by IOM Chief of Mission Ms. Marianne Lane, the Director added:
“The effective implementation of these instruments by Member States, including through ‘variable geometry’ such as having bilateral agreements, will certainly reinforce the realization of COMESA’s aspirations."
IOM is currently supporting COMESA through the African Caribbean Pacific-EU Migration Action in the development of recommendations for the design and setting up of an online monitoring and reporting system for the implementation of the COMESA Visa protocol.