COMESA Heads of State have today urged Member States to scale up investment in research and innovation in the health sector and to prioritize all programmes that would enhance socio-economic recovery and generate more resilient societies that are ready to respond to disasters that may come.
In their communique issued at the end of their 21st COMESA Summit, the leaders noted the devastating socio-economic and cultural effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across various sectors of the economy and the low vaccine production and access in the region.
The leaders urged Member States to invest in digital infrastructure to enhance universal access to internet to address the challenges arising from the digital divide and support the digitalisation of the economies.
The focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and way forward, is in line with the theme of the COMESA Summit: Building Resilience Through Strategic Digital Economic Integration, which advocates for the application of ICT solutions in driving regional integration.
They commended Egypt, Rwanda, Uganda and other Member States that are taking initiatives for vaccine production and called for the fair global distribution of vaccines particularly for Africa.
The Heads of State endorsed the establishment of a Multi–Sectoral Technical Committee on health matters to coordinate and support regional programmes on health-related matters at the Secretariat in line with Article 110 of the COMESA Treaty on Cooperation of Member States on Health Matters.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SUMMIT COMMUNQUE
On the COMESA Free Trade Area
Commended the Republic of Tunisia for joining COMESA FTA on 1st January 2020; urged Somalia to fast-track the process of acceding to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and joining the COMESA FTA and called upon other Member States who have not yet joined the FTA to do so. The summit urged Member States to eliminate Non-Tariff Barriers to trade and address structural challenges to reduce cost of doing business;
It re-emphasised the important role played by the private sector in enhancing regional integration and endorsed the revival of the COMESA Trade Fairs to exploit the trade potential of the region; and noted the progress made in implementation of trade facilitation programmes including the Digital Free Trade Area (DFTA) and adoption of the Customs and Trade Facilitation Programme (2021-2023); further the Summit noted the importance of trade in services and called upon Member States to expedite liberalisation of services in the region in order to enhance intra-COMESA trade.
On infrastructure development
Welcomed the progress made on various infrastructure programmes on road and railway transport, water and maritime transport, civil aviation, energy, information and communication technology; Noted the financing, technical assistance and capacity building opportunities available under the Regional Infrastructure Finance Facility of the World Bank and the progress on the implementation of the power interconnection projects in the Region;
The Summit encouraged Member States to adopt and implement COMESA and Tripartite Transport and Transit Facilitation instruments to improve corridor efficiency and to continue with programmes to upgrade and maintain corridor infrastructure and facilities. It urged member States to roll out ICT infrastructure in underserved areas to promote universal access and affordable internet; The Summit recognized the importance of the use of artificial intelligence and digitalization in enhancing production, trade, investment and innovation.
On agriculture, Industry, and Private Sector Development
Endorsed the scaling up of agricultural productivity and value addition initiatives to enhance competitiveness, agricultural value addition and food security;
Adopted the industry sectoral frameworks and urged Member States to develop measures to domesticate the frameworks and mobilise resources needed for their implementation;
Recognised the importance of developing the Blue Economy through balanced sustainable economic development and environmental protection in COMESA.
Urged member states to intensify their efforts to combat climate change given its disruptive weather patterns, leading to extreme weather events, unpredictability, scarcity of water supply and its contamination.
Called for the expeditious harmonization and mutual recognition of standards to facilitate intra COMESA Trade.
On the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Agreement
Recalled that the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) Agreement was launched in June 2015 in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt;
Recognized the importance of the Tripartite Agreement in resolving the challenges of multiple memberships in the three RECs and of championing and expediting continental integration process.
Noted that the following 11 Tripartite Member/Partner States have submitted instruments of ratification: Botswana, Burundi, Egypt, Eswatini, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe;
Noted that the Tripartite Agreement only requires three more ratifications for it to enter into force and called on COMESA Member States that have not yet ratified to do so.
On Gender and Social Affairs
Endorsed the COMESA Gender Policy Implementation Plan to strengthen gender mainstreaming at all levels;
Commended Eswatini, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius and Seychelles on the signing of the Social Charter and urged Member States that have not yet signed to do so;
Endorsed the establishment of the COMESA Youth Advisory Panel to foster engagement of the youth in policy dialogue;