COMESA member states should strive to promote economic growth through industrialization and investment in energy production, says assistant secretary general Dr Kipyego Cheluget.
Dr Cheluget said full regional integration and the quest to have a seamless flow of goods and services will be achieved in the COMESA region once the member states commited themselves to eliminate outstanding tariff and non-tariff barriers.
He called on member states to come up with innovative ways of funding regional integration programmes to reduce dependence on cooperating partners.
He was speaking at COMESA secretariat in Lusaka when he officially opened the regional workshop to validate the draft COMESA 2016-2020 Medium Term Strategic Plan (MTSP)
“As we think of our strategy of moving forward, we must look at what we have achieved and challenge ourselves if we are doing enough for regional integration or we need to hasten the pace.”
Dr Cheluget also noted that security concerns by member states especially on immigration inhibited the free movement of people.
“Owing to these barriers, intra-regional trade among member states is low compared to trade with other countries outside the region,” he said
The 2016-2020 strategic plan, to be adopted this year by the council of ministers, was expected to contribute to structural transformation of the economies of the COMESA member States so as to foster the overall economic development through trade and investment.
“The free movement of business people and capital is the biggest impediment to improving the levels of intra-regional trade,” Dr Cheluget said. “Subsequently, the intra-regional trade is low compared to external trade with other countries globally.”
He observed that transaction costs were high as business and ordinary could not move around without visas.
Goods and capital investments, he said, also faced restrictions.
The three-day regional workshop will discuss the proposed Medium Term Strategic Plan which will take effect from 2016.
The new strategy is aimed at creating an enabling trade and investment environment, with a focus on market integration, infrastructure development, industrialization (including small and medium enterprise development and regional industrial clusters), institutional and regulatory policies, capacity development as well as resource mobilization.