COMESA members urged to adopt full digital technologies
All member States of COMESA have been urged to adopt full digital technologies in their quest to reduce the disparities in digitization among their citizenry and across sectors in the COMESA region.
The Minister in the Office of the Vice President of Zambia, Sylvia Chalikosa, said the realities of ICTs have compelled COMESA to adopt digitalization and entrench information communication technologies in its delivery of programmes. Quick, reliable and versatile technologies have supported increased efficiency in among other sectors; agriculture, trade and trade facilitation, finance and health by providing improved broadband networks and knowledge management.
“In the last few years, we have gained tremendous economic, social, and cultural benefits from innovations within the ICT sector. ICT is now poised to deliver a robust and broad-based twenty-first-century economy. In this way ICT ranks high as one of the transformative breakthroughs in this decade,” said Chalikosa during the 38th COMESA Council of Ministers that concluded in Lusaka, Zambia.
This was ahead of the Summit of the Heads of State Summit scheduled for 18 July 2018. The Council considered various recommendations presented by the Inter-Governmental Committee whose three days meeting ended earlier, on Thursday last week.
The Council further endorsed various decisions of sectoral meetings including those of Ministerial Committee on COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite infrastructure, gender ministers, justice ministers and Attorneys Generals committees. Other endorsement were on decisions made by other policy organs including the COMESA Fund and the COMESA Committee of Governors of Central Banks.
The Chair of the COMESA Council of Ministers Hon. Mrs Yvette Sylla, who is also the Minister of Trade and Consumption of Madagascar, said COMESA’s programs and approaches to market integration, including the resolution of non-tariff barriers served as a benchmark for continental integration at a time when advance the building of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“Intra-COMESA trade has risen to US$8 billion as at 2016 from US$1.5 billion in 2000. This is largely due to the Free Trae Area which has helped catapult trade in the bloc,” she said.
She however added that intra-COMESA exports recorded a negative which could be attributed to the decline in oil prices and commodity prices since 2014. The other factor associated with the decline in 2016 is the drought which affected most of the countries especially in Eastern Africa.
The top most exported products in the COMESA region were copper, black tea, cobalt, live animals, sugar, meat and cement. This figure does not include small scale informal trade, which is estimated at 40 percent of total trade; and they do not include trade in services. Services in COMESA contribute on average up to 50 percent of the GDPs of our member states.
In his address, the Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said COMESA will work with the government of Zambia to rebuild the cross borders traders market in Lusaka which was destroyed by fire last week. The market serves traders from the eastern and Southern African countries.
The SG urged the Ministers to come up with recommendations that could be considered by the COMESA Heads of State when they meet on Wednesday this week.
“Taking into account that cross border trader account for approximately 40 percent of intra COMESA trade, there is indeed a need going forward for a comprehensive COMESA program,” the SG told the ministers.
He said the COMESA Secretariat will shortly meet with the Government of Zambia to discuss and agree on immediate measures to be taken in the short, medium and long term to address infrastructure and related facilities for the cross-border traders in the COMESA Market.
BY PAUL TENTENA