BY PAUL TENTENA
Lusaka, ZAMBIA- COMESA Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General have approved new regional legal instruments among them, the COMESA Airspace Agreement and the Agreement on admission of Somalia to COMESA.
The COMESA Airspace Agreement and its Enabling Regulations aims at achieving a seamless upper airspace for the region which will lead to enhanced competition in air travel and efficiency. This is in addition to reducing costs of regional air travel and providing value for money in air services.
Zambia Minister of Justice, Given Lubinda, who opened the meeting said the high cost of doing business in the COMESA region was largely due to high transport costs. He said the COMESA Seamless airspace programme will contribute to bringing down the cost of air transport in the region.
“I am glad that, apart from considering draft legal instruments that will strengthen governance, we are beginning to move to instruments that will help us tap into trade in services,” he said. “The draft legal instruments aimed at the implementation of the COMESA Seamless Airspace programme speak to this.”
During the one-day meeting, the Ministers and AGs adopted the Agreement for Accession of Somalia to the COMESA Treaty in readiness for the country’s admission to the regional bloc at the next Summit this year. This follows successful conclusion of negotiations between Somalia and the COMESA Bureau of the Council of Ministers that took place early this week in Lusaka.
Other draft legal instruments that the Ministers and AGs approved were the Human Resources and Administration Internship Policy that will facilitate the attachment of university students to COMESA for short terms. They also adopted the revised Rules of Arbitration of the COMESA Court of justice and the Staff Rules and Regulations for Executive Management of the COMESA Competition Commission.
Stressing the role of Justice Ministers and Attorneys General in crafting supportive legislation that create enabling environment for the full implementation of the digital economy, the Secretary General of COMESA Sindiso Ngwenya said:
“The twenty first century will be claimed by countries and regions that embrace information, communication and technologies and artificial intelligence.”
He urged them to take the cue from Egypt, Kenya and Uganda, which are the only member States out of 27 that have ratified the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement, to do the same.
“The entry into force of the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement shall give us a smooth transition into the Continental Free Trade Agreement,” Mr. Ngwenya, who is the Chairperson of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Task Force said. The TFTA was launched in 2015 but is yet to come into force awaiting ratification by member States.
Meanwhile, the Secretary General has disclosed that the organization was about to secure funding for construction of a new COMESA Headquarters which will have a state of the art conference Centre, a five-star hotel and a shopping complex.
Speaking at the meeting, he said: “The only remaining requirement is to secure a guarantee for the loan of 140 million United States Dollars which is competitively prices at 2.5 percent with a repayment period of twenty-five years.”