Lusaka, November 23, 2020: The 41st Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee began, Monday 23rd November bringing together Permanent/Principal Secretaries from the Ministries that coordinate COMESA programmes at the national level. The two-days virtual meeting will discuss and review implementation of regional integration programmes, plan activities and make recommendations to the Council of Ministers meeting scheduled on Thursday, this week, for decision making.
Zambia’s Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Hon. Christopher Yaluma opened the meeting. He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic constituted a key discussion point owing to its negative impact on regional integration and more so the movement of goods and services.
“Owing to travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic, the region has witnessed a dramatic decline and destabilization in domestic, regional and international trade, requiring the employment of comprehensive economic recovery strategies,” Minister Yaluma pointed out.
He added that COVID-19 has hit hard countries that are sources of major imports and export destinations for the COMESA region. This has negatively impacted not only on availability of supplies, but also on prices that have risen sharply in some instances.
Notwithstanding, the meeting noted that the region remains committed to implementing regional programmes and initiatives aimed at facilitating socio-economic transformation.
In line with this year’s theme of ‘Towards Digital Economic Integration’ COMESA Secretariat has developed and launched an online platform for exchanging information on availability of essential products within the Member States. The meeting was also informed that the Secretariat has continued to use contemporary communication channels to disseminate information regarding trade related measures that the organization has put in place.
The Minister cited a recent study conducted among business and tourism enterprises in Zambia, which indicated that 71% partially closed while 14% were totally closed.
Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe noted that, as the region implements economic recovery strategies, there is need to shift efforts towards adapting and creating solutions for business in a post COVID-19 era. Among these is the empowerment of women through enhanced access to information and networking opportunities through the launching of the 50 Million African Women Speak Digital Platform in six countries.
COVID-19 is also projected to affect agriculture production and the threat of potential food insecurity. This led to the decision of the Ministers responsible for agriculture, environment and natural resources to adopt the COMESA COVID-19 Food Security Response Plan to help the region deal with the impacts of the pandemic.
On infrastructure, COMESA is collaborating at the tripartite level to facilitate trade and transport of goods and services by adopting the Harmonised Tripartite Guidelines on Trade and Transport facilitation Guidelines for safe, efficient and cost-effective movement goods and services.
The two-day meeting will review the implementation of COMESA programmes and receive reports from COMESA institutions and consider the draft 2021-2025 COMESA Medium Term Strategic Plan.