[By Emelia Phiri]
COMESA says over the years, it has grown its membership, occupying a third of Africa with a combined gross domestic product of one trillion US dollars.
During the launch of the Silver Jubilee anniversary and the 40th policy organ’s meeting, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) secretary general Chileshe Kapwepwe said one of the main achievements, in comparison with other regional economic communities, was the increase in geographical size.
“Last year, Tunisia and Somalia joined COMESA, raising the membership from 19 to 21 and the market is now made up of 560 million people,” Kapwepwe said.
“Trade and investment is about numbers, no wonder COMESA is attractive to investment-seekers and business people from outside the region seeking large markets.”
Kapwepwe added that COMESA’s economic growth had steadily averaged eight per cent annually.
“With the launch of a free trade area in 2000, the COMESA free trade area now consists of 16 of the 21 member States. This means that trade among these countries is taking place on a duty- free-quota free basis,” Kapwepwe explained.
“Equally, the elimination of non-tariff barriers that inhibit trade have been a success story.”
Kapwepwe further indicated that digitalisation of instruments, especially trade facilitation instruments, was a high priority now.
“Estimates are that this will create new trade worth US$12.3 billion annually once the digital tools are in place. The celebrated one-stop border post at Chirundu was the first model promoted by COMESA and this has been replicated across the African continent with a number of other trail-blazing trade facilitation instruments developed by COMESA and replicated across Africa,” Kapwepwe noted.
She also announced the commencement of the COMESA anniversary celebrations under the theme: ’25 years, growing together, for prosperity’’.