Recent studies indicate that inter-Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) export potential is in excess of US$100 billion, authorities have said.
As the regional bloc approached its 30th anniversary next year, COMESA Secretary General, Chileshe Kapwepwe, noted the need to take stock of the regional integration journey, achievements and challenges.
Kapwepwe said this when she officially opened the 10th edition of the COMESA Annual Research Forum in Lusaka on Monday.
She said the regional block should also take stock of the prospects for promotion of further regional economic integration as an instrument for sustainable economic growth and development.
Kapwepwe cited the growth of intra-COMESA exports from US$1.5 billion in 2000 to US$12.8 billion in 2021 as part of the significant achievements under the free trade area regime.
“Despite this growth, intra-COMESA exports remain low at about nine percent of its total exports. ,” she noted.
Kapwepwe said a lot more work, including research was required to unlock the potential and enable member states to better utilize the preferences embedded in the Free Trade Area regime.
She said some of the constraints hindering exploitation of the export potential include weak productive capacities, poor infrastructure connectivity, high transport costs, non or slow implementation of COMESA free trade agreement, non-tariff barriers, and trading in similar products.
The 10th edition of the COMESA Annual Research Forum which commenced in Lusaka on Monday had brought together policy makers, academia, and the private sector to discuss emerging topical issues in regional integration.
The event was part of capacity building initiatives in economic and trade policy research and analysis to strengthen integration and trade in COMESA region and the African continent.
Speaking at the forum, the Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), Mamadou Biteye, applauded COMESA for maintaining the research since it was initiated in 2014 with funding from his organization.
He underscored his organization’s commitment to continue supporting capacity building.
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