07 Jun

COMESA Business Forum: STATEMENT BY THE GUEST OF HONOUR HON. CHIPOKA MULENGA, MP, MINISTER OF COMMERCE, TRADE, AND INDUSTRY

  • Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government;
  • Honourable Ministers Present;
  • Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe, Secretary General of COMESA;
  • Distinguished Representatives of Regional and International Organisations and Cooperating Partners;
  • Captains of Industry;
  • Representatives from the Media;
  • Distinguished Delegates;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is a great honour and privilege to welcome you all to the 16th COMESA Business Forum and to Zambia. I am glad to address you at this Forum which precedes the 22nd COMESA Summit being held under the theme “Economic Integration for a Thriving COMESA anchored on Green Investment, Value Addition, and Tourism.” This theme aligns with the African Union Agenda 2063 to become an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens; and indeed it is aligned to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, among other agreements, which are key to our sustainable development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to commend the COMESA Business Council and the business community at large, for the commitment shown in fostering trade and investment within the Region. This reflects your dedication to the regional integration and prosperity agenda. This Forum creates a platform to further explore opportunities and facilitate trade and investment in our countries, and the region in general.  I am very optimistic that the region is once again gaining its trade and investment momentum from the adverse effects of the COVID 19.

It is heart-warming and encouraging to see that the region is on a positive trajectory recording a steady increase in intra-regional trade from USD 9.2 billion in 2019 to USD 9.9 billion in 2022. With this progress, I am positive that this Business Forum will leverage on the gains and consolidate growth in intra-trade and investment potential in the region.

Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Our goal as a continent is to overcome barriers that hinder investment and trade within Africa. We cannot accept the persistence of high poverty levels and youth unemployment when our continent is endowed with immense natural resources. Let us build productive capacities to utilise the abundant natural resources and forge partnerships to explore opportunities available and renew our commitment to strengthen our economies through industrial development.

This Business Forum has indeed come at an opportune time when Africa seeks to change its narrative. Our economies are striving to recover from the adverse effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic and other crises occasioned by climate change and geo-political tensions, in particular the Ukraine-Russia War. This Forum, therefore, serves as a platform to exchange business information, explore trade and investment opportunities and create mutually beneficial partnerships.  I want to encourage you to take advantage of this Summit to form viable partnerships. I also urge you to utilise the Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) to continue engaging to enhance innovation and creativity which will foster economic resilience of the COMESA region.

Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Zambia is committed to supporting the economic integration of our region, and of Africa as a whole. We are actively promoting the creation of regional value chains in order to support value addition to our continent’s vast resources.

One-way Zambia is doing this, is through the establishment of the Zambia and Zimbabwe Common Agro Industrial Park (CAIP), this cooperation will contribute to regional integration through the development of cross-border  value chains in sectors in which the two countries have comparative advantage to transform our raw materials into processed products.

In addition, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo signed a Cooperation Agreement for the Development of a Value Chain in the Electric Vehicle Battery and Clean Energy sector on 29th April, 2022. Recognising that Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are neighbouring countries who together hold about 70% of the world’s cobalt reserves, we saw it necessary to harmonise our strategies and develop policies in the mining and industrial sectors for the success of the Initiative.

Through the intra-Africa free trade and investment arrangements that we have, such as the COMESA and the African Continental Free Trade Area, the benefits of the Initiative will not accrue to the two countries, but to the COMESA and indeed Africa at large. The joint Initiative is aimed at encouraging value addition and regional integration to the vast mineral endowments of the continent, cognizant of the global transition towards decarbonisation and the prospective rising demand for e-technologies.

 

Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our Government is committed to an economic and social transformation agenda, anchored on promotion of investments in diverse sectors of the economy such as agriculture, energy, mining, manufacturing, tourism and ICT. We are, however, cognisant that green investments are key for sustainable development. We need to ensure that the economic activities of today do not negatively affect the ability of our future generations to create wealth. Zambia has also established Multi Facility Economic Zones and Industrial Parks with a view of attracting local and foreign investment to increase value addition and propel Zambia’s industrialisation and economic transformation anchored on Zambia’s blueprint development agenda.  We have also made the Multi Facility Economic Zones attractive for investment by introducing fiscal incentives. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need to join hands to drive our shared economic prosperity. To do this, Governments need to provide a conducive business environment supported by a strong policy framework for the private sector to thrive. As Zambia, we have been undertaking business reforms intended to improve the investment climate. We need to support value addition to our vast resources and to do this, the private sector is encouraged to use platforms such as this one to create viable business linkages.

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.

I, therefore, wish to extend an open invitation to all business persons to explore trade and investment opportunities in Zambia beyond this Forum. I urge the business community to consider investing in the COMESA region, taking advantage of its vast resources, conducive business environment and combined GDP of $768 billion.

Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I conclude, in line with the Summit theme, which recognizes the importance of the tourism sector to our economies, I wish to invite you all to explore Zambia’s breath-taking tourist sites, including the Mighty Victoria Falls, the various National Parks, other landmarks and attractions, including our beautiful and rich culture.

I look forward to a successful and very informative Business Forum.

I thank you for your attention and encourage all delegates, both from public and private sectors to utilise this Forum to create strategic partnerships to build a strong and resilient COMESA. 

–END–

Statement by Hon. Minister Mulenga COMESA Business Forum

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