COMESA’s trade potential pegged at over US$80bn
The current intra-regional trade in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa is US$20 billion with a potential of over US$82.3 billion. This figure has risen from US$3.2 billion in 2000 when the Free Trade Area was launched.
“The paradox is that the products are produced and exported to the rest of the world and at the same time imported from the rest of the world into the region,” COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said on 3 October 2017.
He was addressing Ministers of infrastructure responsible for transport, communications, energy and information technology during the opening of their 10th meeting in Lusaka, Zambia.
Ngwenya said the huge trade potential was in textiles, wooden furniture, horticulture, household items, confectioneries, hides and skins, footwear and leather products, sugar confectioneries, tobacco and precious metals.
He noted: “Member States have the highest potential in producing and exporting the products whose total value is approximately ten times that of existing trade.”
COMESA has identified the absence of cross border production networks which would result in intra industry trade between and among firms within the region as major trade barrier. Hence, addressing transport and logistic challenges is fundamental to the COMESA agenda of ‘inclusive and sustainable industrialization’ in unlocking the trade potential and making the region more competitive.
Mr Ngwenya added: “While we have made considerable progress in establishing favourable trading arrangements among ourselves, we need to ensure our productive side is properly structured.”
Zambia’s Acting Minister of Transport and Communications Mathews Nkhuwa opened the meeting. He called on member states to put in place policies, systems, institutions and resources to ensure adequate infrastructure capacity in terms of quantity and quality.
A report presented to the Ministers at the meeting highlighted notable infrastructural projects that have been completed. These include the first phase of the standard gauge railway between Mombasa and Nairobi which will eventually connect Kenya to Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan. Ethiopia has also completed constructing a 750-kilometer standard gauge railway which will connect to Djibouti.
In the energy sector, the region currently has a total installed power generation capacity estimated at 65, 791 megawatts as at the end of 2016. This is a 36% increase from 2012 figures of 48,352 megawatts.
On ICT, COMESA countries represent 37% of the internet users in Africa. There is therefore needed to do more to enable majority of Africans have access to ICT services.
The Ministers’ meeting comes to an end Wednesday, October 4th with the adoption of various recommendations that have been prepared by the committee of the technical experts on infrastructure.