Mobilization of funds to support the implementation of the regional integration programmes is one of the key highlights of the 39th meeting of the COMESA Intergovernmental Committee meeting that began today in Zambia.
The two days meeting brought together Permanent/ Principal Secretaries from ministries that coordinate COMESA activities in the Member States to consider – among others - a new resource mobilization strategy that will make COMESA financially sustainable.
COMESA Secretary General (SG), Chileshe Kapwepwe told the delegates at the opening ceremony, that 65% of the current budget for programmes was supported by Development Partners.
“It is even more challenging, to note that Member States contributions are not only inadequate but also, only a few of the Member States have been consistently able to pay the assessed contributions on time,” she said.
According to a media release that was sent in from Lusaka, the SG called on the Member States to review the current funding modalities of COMESA given that there was a steady reduction by development partners, of the non-programme budget for the Secretariat.
The Secretariat has subsequently developed a comprehensive Resource Mobilization Strategy, to be considered and adopted by the PSs. It is intended to ensure a clear and well-coordinated approach to mobilize resources required to support the implementation of COMESA programs.
Secretary-General also indicated that COMESA was rolling out digital trade facilitation programme to promote investments and industrialization, especially on agro-based industries and agribusiness.
“The use of technology will underpin our commitment to finding innovative ways of facilitating trade through e-commerce, e-logistics and e-legislation,” she said.
“It is time to ensure that COMESA becomes the regional hub in developing and implementing of innovative ways of trade facilitation and maximise the use of the digital technology in regional integration.”
To speed up the integration agenda, the SG identified the following initiatives to be carried out by the organization: rolling out COMESA video conferencing; developing an online market; eliminating inefficiencies in the existing one-stop border post through use of digital technology; ensuring simultaneous information sharing at the border points and harmonization of the transit cargo regulations and customs documentation and procedures.
The Permanent Secretary of Commerce, Trade and Industry Kayula Siame, who was the chief guest supported the call for a renewed commitment by the Member States towards their financial obligation to COMESA.
“A review of our performance in implementing COMESA programmes indicates different commitment levels amongst our Member States,” she said.
“I urge all Member States to remain committed to achieving COMESA’s vision by allocating enough resources to the implementation of COMESA programmes.
“Our collective resolve to make COMESA an effective organization must be measured by the support we give to the funding of COMESA. We need to come up with a financing model that will help the region achieve prosperity for its people and a much wider integrated region.”
Heads of the delegation representing development and cooperating partners addressed the meeting. These included Ambassador Allesandro Mariani (European Union) Ambassador Daniel L. Forte (USAID), the World Bank, the International Trade Centre and the International Organization for Migration.
Ambassador Mariani said the EU will launch two additional programmes in 2019: one worth 10 million euros to support private sector and Regional Value Chains, and another of seven million euros to strengthen the institutional capacities of the COMESA Secretariat.
The IC meeting comes to an end on Saturday, November 24, 2018 paving way for the 39th COMESA Council of Ministers meeting on Sunday, November 25, 2018.
BY PAUL TENTENA