WE have had a good year with solid achievements and we can look to the future with great optimism and determination, says COMESA secretary general Chileshe Kapwepwe.
During the opening of the Council of Ministers under the theme: “COMESA – Towards Digital Economic Integration”, Kapwepwe said the COMESA that was wanted was within the countries’ power to achieve and see.
“It will only require that we make it fit for purpose, resource it well, and manage it well; working together as a team and as the COMESA family, supported by competent and adequate capacity at the Secretariat and in the member States,” she said.
Kapwepwe said good programmes that were not duly implemented do not deliver the promise of better lives for the people.
She said full ownership by stakeholders was therefore key to have traction around implementation and domestication.
Kapwepwe said better engagement of stakeholders particularly the member States had been a key priority.
She said celebrating 25 years of existence and service was a solemn time for introspection as an organisation to rediscover “ourselves, and our values” and forge ahead even more boldly.
“Over the past few days, we have been celebrating COMESA@25. We played golf and soccer, had a gala dinner, recognised our achievers, showcased what we do as an organisation, and established a COMESA Foundation for we are a caring organisation. A special highlight was how COMESA has directly supported our young innovators to start and grow their businesses. In one case, one of our young innovators has made it to Africa Forbes List in a period of just five years. I pay tribute to all who supported the celebrations,” she said.
“COMESA continues to be a force for good in Africa and throughout the world. The only reason we exist as an organisation is to improve the living conditions of our people. As COMESA, we take a developmental approach to regional integration, with a focus on trade and investment, industrialisation and infrastructure, while taking cognisance of all relevant enablers for social economic transformation.”
Kapwepwe further said COMESA was an evidence-based and rule-based organisation.
“We therefore take great pride in our COMESA Virtual University, a first in Africa; our policy research programme; our Court of Justice which continues to anchor dispute resolution; our system for speedily addressing non-tariff barriers; and the highly technical and professional character of our Secretariat, which we believe to be one of our distinguishing features,” she said.
On priorities and progress, Kapwepwe said from the first 100 years, they hit the ground running and had made very good progress.
“My foremost priority then and now remains to see a COMESA that is well-resourced, well-managed and fit for purpose,” she said.
She said a COMESA that was fit for purpose, must additionally have headquarters that match its high profile.
“We are therefore completing the process of acquiring a state-of-the-art building in the City of Lusaka, from one of our own institutions, ZEP-RE,” she said.
Kapwepwe said the continental impetus to deeper and broader integration was irreversible, as demonstrated by a number of flagship programmes that have taken off, particularly the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Single African Air Transport Market, among others.
“As a strong regional economic community, COMESA continues to set benchmarks, provide good practices, and proactively support the African continental integration process,” she said.
Kapwepwe said the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area also continued to register good progress.
“Though slow, the ratifications continue to come in, and so far we have seven. We need seven more. I urge you honourable ministers to rise to the occasion and ensure that all member States complete the ratification of the Tripartite Free Trade Area,” said Kapwepwe.