The implementation of the COMESA Industrial Strategy has officially begun following the approval of an Action Plan and Regional Guidelines on Local Content Policy.
Ministers responsible for industry from the 21 Member States and their representatives adopted the two instruments during the closure of the 3rd COMESA Ministerial Committee on Industry in Nairobi, Kenya.
This paves the way for the implementation of the COMESA Industrial Strategy, which is aimed at supporting the structural transformation of regional economies through sustainable and inclusive industrialization.
In their decision, the ministers urged the Member States to integrate activities of the Regional Action Plan into their National Industrial Development Plans for implementation.
Further, they urged the Member States to allocate budgets to implement their industrial development plans in synergy with the regional activities, and in line with the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDAIII).
The two-day meeting was chaired by the Minister of Trade and Industry of Madagascar Lantosoa Rakotomalala, who is also the chair of the COMESA Council of Ministers.
In their final statement, the Ministers directed the COMESA Secretariat to facilitate mobilization of financial and technical resources required for the implementation of the Regional Action Plan.
The COMESA Industrial Strategy was adopted by Ministers of Industry in September 2017 who also directed the Secretariat to develop a well-costed Action Plan with timelines and responsibilities.
At the same meeting, the ministers directed the Secretariat to come up with Regional Policy Guidelines on Local Content as one way of the regional Industrialization agenda.
The specific targets of the COMESA Industrialization Strategy (2017-2026) are: to increase value-added products and exports as a percentage of GDP from the current estimate of 9% to 29% by 2026; increase the share of manufacturing to GDP to at least 20% by 2026 and increase intra-regional manufactured exports relative to total manufactured imports to the region from the current 7% to 20% by 2026.
At the opening of the Ministerial meeting, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Trade, Industrialization and Cooperatives Peter Munya underscored the need for the region to develop and inculcate a preferential taste for its own goods and services.
“We cannot talk about industrialization and Infrastructure development without addressing Local Content policies and regulations as appropriate economic instruments which could be employed to advance regional development by harnessing locally available resources,” Munya told the ministers.
He observed that the COMESA and Africa in general, were endowed with vast resources- both material and human and it was time the region came up with strategies to harness them for their own development.
“In order to reap full benefits of Local Content, there is a need for goodwill and commitment of political leadership, professional, captains of industry and consumers in general,” he said.
Regarding the Regional Guidelines for Local Content Policy, the ministers noted that these will enable the formulation of Local Content Policies amongst member states in order to maximize local benefits from industrialization.
They, however, agreed that the Regional Guidelines are not binding but was a tool to simply guide the Member States when formulating policy, laws and regulations on local content.
When developing the local content framework, the ministers advised the Members States to take into consideration the commitments made under bilateral and multilateral agreements, bilateral investment treaties, and the existing regional and continental Free Trade Agreements to avoid the breach of those commitments.
The Minister, therefore, urged the Member States to establish mechanisms for greater collaboration in the development of sustainable value chains in order to increase intra trade in manufactured goods;
They urged the Member States to use the regional guidelines to develop/review their Local Content Policy Frameworks and to learn from each other through experience sharing on Local Content.
The ministers further directed COMESA Secretariat to facilitate the Member States in the formulation and implementation of local content programmes.
Secretary-General of COMESA Chileshe Kapwepwe thanked the ministers for approving the local content policy and the regional guidelines, which she noted will lead to the development of a vibrant and sustainable industrial sector that will ensure equitable benefits to all the people of COMESA Member States.
BY PAUL TENTENA