Trade within Comesa member states shoots to US$15bn

Trade within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) member states now stands at US$15 billion, Comesa Secretary-General Mr Sindiso Ngwenya has said.
In an interview last week on the sidelines of the just-ended Comesa fourth meeting of ministers responsible for gender in Victoria Falls, Mr Ngwenya said the Comesa Free Trade Area had seen the diversification of trade within the bloc.
“Since the launch of the Comesa Free Trade Area, intra trade now accounts for US$15 billion up from a mere US$3,2 billion. We have seen an increase in trade, services and investments. The financial services and the transportation industry are coming from within to consolidate trade,” he said.
Mr Ngwenya said plans to create a Free Trade Area made up of countries from Comesa, the Southern Africa Development Committee (Sadc) and East African Community (EAC) spanning from Cape to Cairo to Tripoli by 2012 were within sight.
He said as Comesa they had done everything in terms of laying the paperwork on how the FTA can be realised and were now waiting for governments’ input.
“The FTA from Cape to Cairo to Tripoli will be there by 2012. Consultations are taking place and we are confident that the dream will be realised,” he said.
The Tripartite Summit held in October last year directed the Tripartite Task Force composed of the three regional secretariats to develop a roadmap for the implementation of a wider economic integration framework.
The roadmap will underpin the establishment of a wider FTA and legal institutional structures.
Meanwhile, according to the draft resolutions at the end of the meeting, the ministers made the following decisions to address the Comesa role of women entrepreneurship:
“Member states should facilitate the training of trainers in entrepreneurship at regional and local level that will cascade to the grassroots, a Comesa women entrepreneurship fund which would include a guarantee facility should be established, and the secretariat should form strategic partnerships with multilateral and bilateral partners in promoting women entrepreneurship and development of a regional training programme.”
In respect to best practices to be promoted by Comesa secretariat in developing gender strategy, the ministers indicated that uniform guidelines to be used for monitoring and evaluation of gender issues should be formulated.
“Member states should be assisted to develop information education and communication materials for traders in the formal and informal sectors and the member states should be encouraged to establish gender focal point persons at director level in all ministries where they do not exist,” reads part of the resolutions.
At the meeting, a sub-committee of experts consisting five members namely Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Kenya, Malawi and Djibouti was established to review the framework in line with Comesa gender policy and the Comesa gender mainstreaming strategic plan.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe assumed chairmanship of the Comesa bureau. Djibouti will deputise and Malawi was elected as rapporteur. Comesa was established in 1994 to replace the Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa which had been in existence since 1981.
The bloc has 19 member states and the deepening integration in the bloc has availed substantial opportunities for regional trade expansion.
The main objective is to facilitate the removal of all structural and institutional weaknesses of member states and the promotion of peace; security and stability so as to enable them attain sustained development individually and collectively as a regional bloc. The meeting was running under the theme, “Harnessing science and technology for development”.

Source: Victoria Falls Reporter

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