Business Reporter

THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has crafted a five-year Medium Strategic Plan to run from 2021 to 2025 aimed at fostering support to boost regional economic development through trade facilitation and investment promotion.

Comesa is a 21-member bloc comprising countries in southern and eastern Africa including Zimbabwe. Its objectives among others include creating and maintaining free trade area by guaranteeing free movement of goods and services produced within the region and the removal of all tariffs and non-tariff barriers.

Comesa said in formulating the new Medium-Term Strategic Plan (MTSP), the trading bloc through its secretariat, used a wide consultative approach with key stakeholders internally and externally.

“The Comesa secretariat has developed the MTSP covering 2021-2025, which is geared to support structural transformation of the region and boost overall economic development through trade facilitation and investment promotion,” it said in a latest statement.

Consultations were undertaken at different levels including the African Union Commission under Agenda 2063, SDG Centre for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as with partner Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to gather information for the upcoming strategy. As a result, alignment has been established at the global, continental, regional and subject specific levels.

As part of the strategy formulation process, the draft MTSP was recently presented to member States for validation during a virtual meeting that was attended by 60 participants from the 21- member States.

Comesa secretary general, Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe, during her address told delegates that attended the virtual meeting that the process to develop an inclusive and sustainable successor strategy has been a key priority for the secretariat as the facilitating and coordinating office.

“It is important that we, as a member State driven organisation develop a strategic plan that will enable the region to build on its successes and override its challenges,” she said.

Ms Kapwepwe called upon member States to domesticate the MTSP (2021-2025) once finalised, by aligning it with their National Development Plans (NDPs) and take on ownership of the implementation process. This is central towards attainment of the long-term goals of Comesa.

She also emphasized the need for a regional buy-in while acknowledging that the speed towards attaining the regional integration agenda will come about when member States and non-state actors fulfill their roles and responsibilities.

Ms Kapwepwe urged member States to entrench ownership through funding of regional integration programmes. Presently, over 70 percent of the programmes are funded by co-operating partners.

“Sustainability of programmes under such funding arrangements is not easy to foresee. We need to think about reversing the reliance of external funding for regional integration programmes,” she said.

The MTSP is designed to create an enabling economic environment focusing on trade facilitation, market integration, infrastructure development, industrialisation including Small and Medium Enterprises development and regional industrial clusters, institutional and regulatory policies, capacity development as well as resource mobilisation.

It is believed that the plan will be used as a tool to engage Comesa’s strategic partners in the pursuit of regional integration to marshal both financial and non-financial resources as well as providing a framework for developing the organisation’s annual work programmes and budgets. The MTSP is expected to be presented to the Comesa Council of Ministers in November this year for approval and subsequent implementation starting next January.

– @okazunga