NAIROBI, May 15 – Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka Thursday called on the COMESA member states to rededicate their commitments towards the implementation of integration measures aimed at realizing a common Customs Union.
Musyoka said it was imperative for the countries to pursue the strategies at country level so as to ensure the people in the region enjoyed genuine sustainable development as envisioned at the establishment of the economic bloc.
“I am glad that member states are in the process of aligning their national tariffs on the Common External Tariff adopted by the last Summit of the COMESA Authority, it is imperative that we maintain a common purpose and vision as we have previously done,” the Vice President noted.
The Vice President was speaking when he officially opened a two day Extra Ordinary meeting of the COMESA Council of Ministers in Nairobi.
Musyoka urged member states to mitigate against the challenges posed by global economic trends such as the rapid increase in oil prices, decline in food production and stagnation in the multilateral trade negotiations.
He called on COMESA secretariat to work closely with member states to carry out additional work in seeking to raise agricultural productivity and competitiveness under the comprehensive African Agricultural Development programme.
The Vice President noted that the agricultural sector provides up to 80 percent of the region’s population hence the need to sustain it particularly through value addition.
He observed that unfolding events at the multilateral levels will continue to affect the region citing the stalled negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) development round and the critical stage in the talks with European Union for Economic Partnership Agreements.
The Vice President underscored the importance of peace and security in economic development of the region, expressing confidence that African countries are able to resolve their own conflicts.
He said peace and stability would be a permanent feature in the region if African nations would strengthen their approach through regional blocs such as COMESA.
The Vice President commended the outgoing Secretary General of the COMESA, Erastus Mwencha, for his able stewardship during his 10 year term at the organization and wished him well in his new appointment as the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Uhuru Kenyatta said COMESA being the largest trading arrangement in Africa with a population of 400 million people plans to launch a Customs Union by the end of this year.
Uhuru said to-date COMESA has made tremendous progress in implementing various programmes and activities in the region, adding that the integration has seen Intra-regional trade increasing to approximately US$8 billion.
He noted that other pertinent areas that COMESA is focusing on, which are critical to the development of the region include the investments and private sector development, agriculture and food security, infrastructure and ICT development, as well as peace and security.
The Minister said COMESA was also spearheading a number of on-going multilateral negotiations, which he said would ensure maximum trade benefits are reaped for the region.
The out going Secretary General of COMESA, Mwencha, thanked the COMESA member states for their support and cooperation during his term in the regional body.
He expressed confidence that the region would realize its aspirations, particularly in the creation of the Customs Union and harmonization of policies between various economic block in order to improve Intra-African States.
The out going Secretary General informed the council of Ministers that economic partnership agreement with the European Commission have been concluded with an interim agreement to minimize interruption of smooth flow of trade between the two blocs.