Regional Communication Experts and Media Trained on COMESA Regional Integration Programmes

Thirty-One Communication experts and media practitioners from 18 Member States are participating in a two-day capacity building workshop to enhance awareness of COMESA programmes at the national level.

The training is central to the implementation of the 2018 Council of Ministers directive to have a vibrant communications ecosystem characterized by a well-equipped cadre of front-line communications and media experts in all the 21 Member States.

Speaking at the official opening ceremony, Secretary General (SG) Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe said from inception, COMESA has always appreciated and acknowledged the indispensable role of communication professionals as key stakeholders in the realization of the integration agenda and subsequently, the socio-economic development of the region.

However, more still needs to be done as the level of visibility and awareness about COMESA and its programmes is still low at the national level.

Stressing the role of communication in regional integration, the SG said COMESA’s work mostly involves calling member States to the table to discuss, negotiate and consult on matters of common interest. Thus, the bulk of the work is communication-based through creation of platforms for stakeholders to meet and make key policy decisions, review and enforce them.

“Many of these policy decisions have been implemented, others partially while several are yet to become operational,” she noted. The lack or limited awareness of these decisions has contributed to most of the decisions not being fully realized.”

She attributed the low awareness levels to two underlying factors: The responsible agencies in Member States are at times not well informed about the scope and benefits of implementation hence the limited motivation or urgency to act. Secondly, the public, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of regional integration initiatives are not sufficiently aware of the different COMESA programmes and activities. This leads to the public being unable to demand from their governments to deliver on regional integration commitments.

“This is where your role as communication professionals comes in: to ensure that key messages and information about the decisions and commitments made in public interest reach the key stakeholders as the intended beneficiaries,” said Ms Kapwepwe.

She urged the participants to ensure that the most important stakeholders in the regional integration agenda, namely citizens are made fully aware of the opportunities that regional integration initiates present in support of the enhancement of their welfare.

Facilitators of the training comprise of technical experts from the COMESA Secretariat covering trade and customs, gender and social affairs, infrastructure and logistics, agriculture and industry, peace and security and the European Union Development Fund.

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