Her Excellency Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe, Secretary General of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), addressed the opening ceremony of the 44th Council of Ministers meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, emphasizing the region’s commitment to economic integration despite ongoing challenges.
In her statement, Kapwepwe acknowledged the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, global geopolitical conflicts, and climate change on member states’ economies.
She stressed the importance of collaborative efforts to strengthen regional trade and economic integration in the face of these challenges.
Kapwepwe expressed gratitude to cooperating partners, including the European Union, World Bank, and African Development Bank, for their financial support to COMESA’s regional programs.
She announced the recent signing of two financing agreements with the European Union, totaling EUR 48.2 million, aimed at improving trade competitiveness and sustainability in member states.
Providing insights into COMESA’s achievements, Kapwepwe reported positive trends in exports, with a 15% increase in exports to the world and a 10% increase in intra-COMESA exports in 2022.
She highlighted successful trade facilitation programs, including automated customs systems and the Tripartite online Non-Tariff Barriers reporting mechanism.
The Secretary General also emphasized progress in infrastructure development, particularly in air transport market integration under the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
Additionally, she highlighted strides in the energy sector, with a focus on regional power trading and the development of new power generation sources.
Ms. Kapwepwe addressed ongoing initiatives in industrial development, such as the facilitation of a common agro-processing park between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and support from the African Development Bank for the regional pharmaceuticals sector.
Recognizing the importance of inclusive development, Ms. Kapwepwe emphasized COMESA’s commitment to gender mainstreaming and the empowerment of women and youth.
The Secretariat continues to support initiatives promoting women’s economic empowerment, market access, and incomes, as well as youth engagement and capacity building.
In the governance, peace, and security domain, Kapwepwe highlighted the expansion of COMESA’s Early Warning System to eight member states and efforts to strengthen Anti-Money Laundering regimes through capacity building programs.
The Secretary General concluded by expressing optimism about the region’s achievements and the commitment to advancing the regional integration agenda.
She wished the ministers fruitful deliberations as they guide the organization in pursuing its objectives.
The 44th Council of Ministers meeting aims to address key regional issues, strategize for future challenges, and provide policy guidance for COMESA’s continued integration efforts.