President in Madagascar for 19th Comesa summit
PRESIDENT Mugabe arrived here last night to attend the 19th Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Heads of State and Government Summit that begins today.
He was welcomed at Ivato International Airport in Antananarivo by Madagascar President Mr Hery Rajaonarimampianina and Zimbabwean Government officials who were part of the advance team.
The President travelled with senior Government officials and then linked up with Ministers Simbarashe Mumbengegwi (Foreign Affairs) and Mike Bimha (Industry and Commerce) who were attending preparatory meetings here since last week.
He was seen off at Harare International Airport by VicePresidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, Cabinet Ministers, senior civil servants and service chiefs. Meanwhile, VP Mnangagwa is Acting President. Minister Bimha said: “The summit will mainly look at inclusive and sustainable industrialisation. The industrialisation agenda is now the major focus in Africa; even regional integration is revolving around the same subject. It is the way to go, and Africa is saying, ‘Let’s utilise our people and resources towards valueaddition and beneficiation’. If we industrialise and export, our economies will grow.
“This trajectory runs through the entire regional thrust and across Africa. And when we say inclusive, we are involving everyone: governments, women, businesses; etcetera.”
Themed “Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialisation”, the summit will discuss regional peace and security, customs and trade, homing in on the Comesa, Tripartite and Continental free trade areas.
It will also consider the Medium Term Strategic Plan (2016-2020) adopted by the Comesa Council of Ministers on October 15, 2016 with a view to spurring structural economic transformation via trade, investment and infrastructure development.
The Comesa FTA provides duty and quota - free market access to member states on products originating in the region.
Criteria known as Rules of Origin ensure processed goods or those wholly manufactured within the 19-member grouping get preferential tariffs across borders.
Zimbabwe and 14 other member states are participating in the FTA whose benefits and impediments will soon be assessed and published annually.
That assessment will cover trade in goods and services, logistics and trade facilitation, industrialisation and infrastructure development.
A recent study by the Comesa secretariat established that the region trades more externally than internally.
It determined that the trade potential value that could enhance intra-Comesa product trade was US$82.3 billion, and that trade within the region would increase by $41.15 billion if 50 percent of external business were channelled inwards.
The Tripartite FTA operates along similar lines, integrating three of Africa’s regional blocs – Comesa, Sadc and the East African Community – and a continental FTA has been proposed to accommodate all 54 African Union states.
At the inter-government committee meeting here last week, Madagascar’s Trade and Consumption Minister Armand Tazafy said industrialisation was key to integrated trade. “Without sustainable industrialisation, our region cannot adequately respond to the ever-increasing needs of high value products with the rising middle class in our continent, which has been forced to source elsewhere.”