Address by ITC Executive Director at the COMESA Inter Governmental Committee (en)

27 novembre 2018
ITC Nouvelles

The Chairman of the Inter-governmental Committee- Permanent Secretary of the Zambian Ministry of Commerce Trade and Industry Mrs Kayula Siame (Guest of Honour),
The Secretary General of COMESA, Ms. Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe,
Senior Officials, Excellencies, All protocols observed.

On behalf of ITC, I wish to express our gratitude for being invited to participate in this first formal meeting following the appointment of the new Secretary General.

We at ITC are not only excited about her appointment as the first female Secretary General of COMESA, but also wish her well in her new assignment.

ITC and COMESA have a longstanding relationship and I wish to reassure the Secretary General of our continued support to the Secretariat and COMESA Member States in advancing regional integration agenda in alignment with the continental Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

Africa and COMESA have given the signal at the highest political to do business with the region and the rest of world. Countries have in this regard shown resolve to not only deepen the regional integration efforts but ensure delivery of meaningful and sustainable development for its citizen underpinned by greater integration of women and youth in regional value chains, and creation of employment. ITC fully comprehends that such a mammoth task does not come without presenting in some challenges. ITC stands ready to work with COMESA and others to overcome them.

ITC’s interventions are focused on SMEs, which are the backbone of most developing countries and account for over 70% of developing countries, as most of you are already aware. We equip partners in country and regions with information, skills, training and business connections in order to help them address challenges such as poor competitiveness, limited access to markets and finance, non-compliance to quality standards and a business environment that may not be conducive for growth across their respective value chains. We also help them to tap into new opportunities in areas such as e-commerce, youth entrepreneurship and women economic empowerment. We embrace the overarching objective to improve economic livelihoods in a sustainable and inclusive manner in line with the UN SDGs.

Specific to COMESA, in 2015 ITC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate in the following areas:

  1. Regional market integration
  2. Industrialization
  3. Policy and regulations
  4. Strengthening of regional trade support networks
  5. Enhancing enterprise level competitiveness in priority clusters such as agriculture, cotton-to-clothing, leather and leather products value chains
  6. Mapping and developing intra-regional services sectors;
  7. Sector strategy design and implementation across countries; and
  8. Improving the trade facilitation environment for SMEs in the region.
As it has been the case since many years, ITC has implemented a number of trade-related technical assistance projects in COMESA member states. For example, Projects under the Regional Integration Support Mechanism (RISM) have recently been completed in Zambia in Trade Facilitation; in Zambia and Zimbabwe in the cotton and textiles, and in Madagascar on standards. In the context of the broader ITC work, within the COMESA family we launched SheTrades Chapters in Kenya, Rwanda and Zambia as part of our global initiative to connect three million women to markets by 2021. Additionally COMESA countries plan to do the same in the coming months. These include countries such as Uganda and Egypt. Ultimately, ITC aims to deliver SheTrades to the continental level so ensure maximum benefit and impact to Africa.

In June 2018, ITC and the COMESA Secretariat signed a Co-Delegation Agreement for the implementation of specific activities under the EU EDF 11 funding, the “COMESA Cross Border Trade Initiative: Facilitating small-scale trade across borders” which is an integral part of the broader COMESA regional integration agenda. The objective, as earlier also articulated by Ambassador Mariani, is to increase formal small-scale cross-border trade flows at the five borders in COMESA that would lead to higher revenue collection for governments as well as increased security and higher incomes for small-scale cross-border traders. Our team is in fact here on a technical mission to discuss with stakeholders and other partners regarding implementation.

ITC also intends to work in close collaboration with COMESA for the implementation of the Tripartite (COMESA-EAC-SADC) Free Trade Area and the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). We will also ensure enhanced synergies and leveraging of resources with our existing bilateral projects and programs, as we will endeavour to share good practices. Examples of such projects include the EU funded MARKUP project in the EAC, DFID funded SITA and PIGA projects promoting investment from India and China respectively. We remain grateful to all the funders that enable us to do this work.

In closing, we look forward to further enhancing our collaborative and to delivering even more impact for good in the COMESA region.

Thank you for your attention.