COMESA member states have continued to record high levels of trade among themselves as benefits of the regional grouping become apparent, it was revealed yesterday.
COMESA assistant secretary general Kipyego Cheluget said this was because the regional grouping had continued to forge ahead with integration. He said the fruits of the efforts that member states had put into the integration of their economies were manifested by the level of interaction of their economic agencies.
He however noted that the level of trade was fluctuating due to the changes in world prices of commodities. Mr. Cheluget was speaking during the official opening of the 32nd meeting of the COMESA trade and customs committee in Lusaka.
“According to provisional figures available at the secretariat, COMESA’s global total exports declined by 20 percent from US$85 billion in 2014 to US$68 billion in 2015. On the other hand, COMESA’s global imports declined by a similar level of 8 percent from US$182 billion in 2014 to US$167 billion in 2015.
“Both 2014 and 2015 had the highest levels of trade deficit recorded in the past nine years at US$9.2 billion and US$100 billion respectively,” Mr. Cheluget said.
He also noted that the level of intra-trade was low and called for concerted efforts for economies to move up the value chain so as to enhance the value of trade exchange among COMESA member states.
Speaking at the same occasion, Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry permanent secretary Kayula Siame commended COMESA for continuously demonstrating the benefit of integration by being a pioneer in developing and implementing various instruments for integration.
Ms. Siame pointed out the Yellow Card, the COMESA Customs Document, the Simplified Trade Regime and the COMESA, fund among others, as key examples of the instruments that had been put in place.
She also emphasised the need for the implementation of regional commitments and full-scale participation of all member states in COMESA programmes, which he said was an area that still required improvement.
She stated that integration was a collective effort and success could only be attained when the majority were fully engaged in various activities currently in place in COMESA.
“In as much as COMESA developed excellent instrumental policies all aimed at improving integration and boosting intra-COMESA trade, we continue to face some challenges. The low level of transposition of regional instruments has affected negatively the implementation of the various programmes.
“For instance, a recent survey undertaken by the secretariat has shown low levels of implementation of regional commitments at national levels and suggested sustained sensitization and awareness campaigns of the COMESA protocols and more importantly the intended benefit of regional integration,” Ms. Siame said.