16th COMESA Business Forum Kicks Off in Zambia
Lusaka, Wednesday, June 7, 2023: The 16th edition of the COMESA Business Forum kicked off today in Lusaka, Zambia with over 500 regional and international businesses participating the in the one-day event preceding the COMESA Summit.
The forum is a multisectoral platform for the promotion of quality products and services that are currently breaking ground in terms of high value and high demand in regional and international markets, with a focus on the COMESA market. The Forum and exhibition have been organised by the COMESA Business Council.
Zambia’s Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Mr Chipoka Mulenga opened the forum. He described it as most ideal for enabling the private sector to be more effective drivers of industrialization, economic diversification, trade and investment in the region.
He stressed the need for collaboration to drive shared economic prosperity whereby governments provide a conducive business environment supported by a strong policy framework for the private sector to thrive.
“We need to ensure that our policies and strategies are coherent, consistent and complementary to support the overall goal of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own people,” he said.
In her statement, Secretary General of COMESA, Ms. Chileshe Kapwepwe stressed the need for Public-Private Sector partnership in increase intra-COMESA Trade to spur the economic growth which has declined from 5.9% in 2021 to 4.8% in 2022.
“We are happy to leverage existing COMESA institutions such as the COMESA Business Council (CBC) to increase intra-COMESA Trade through private sector development,” she said.
Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Mr. Wamkele Mene said with the global Covid-19 pandemic now practically behind, it is time for African countries to reset, socially and economically.
“I am, therefore, pleased that this Business Forum provides an opportunity not only to explore ways to accelerate the recovery of COMESA Member States from Covid 19 through green investment, value addition and tourism, but also the implementation of the AfCFTA,” he added.
The president of the CBC Mr Marday Venkatasamy said the CBC has embarked on the implementation and operation of the Regional Digital Retail Payments Scheme for MSMEs. This initiative will directly respond to the intra-trade deficit in the COMESA region.
“The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that digitalization increases the scale, scope, and speed of trade,” he noted. “It allows firms to bring new products and services to a larger number of digitally connected customers across the globe.”
The highlight of the Forum is the Presidential Round Table based on the theme “Economic Integration for a Thriving COMESA Anchored on Green Investment, Value Addition and Tourism.” Its panelists include Heads of State, regional and continental business leaders.
Event photos: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjAGTxB