07 Jun

COMESA Business Forum: Statement By Her Excellency, Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe Secretary General COMESA Secretariat


  • Honourable Chipoka Mulenga, MP, Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Zambia; and our gracious host;
  • Honourable Ministers from COMESA Member States;
  • Marday Venkatasamy, President of COMESA Business Council;
  • Ambassador Jacek Jankowski, Head of Delegation, European Union in Zambia, and Permanent Representative to COMESA;
  • Permanent Secretaries;
  • Representatives of Government Institutions;
  • CEOs of Business Associations;
  • Captains of industry;
  • Members of CBC;
  • Members of the Press;
  • Distinguished Guests;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen.

I Greet You All, Good morning.

It gives me great pleasure to join you during this 16th High Level COMESA Business Forum. Let me start by warmly welcoming you all to the Forum, with a very special welcome to those coming from outside Lusaka. I wish to recognise the presence of Hon. Chipoka Mulenga, M.P, Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Zambia, who is our host.  Also in attendance is the Honourable Minister of Trade and Industry, Egypt who is the Chairperson of the COMESA Council of Ministers. In addition, I wish to thank CBC for the good effort and leadership during preparations for this Forum. This has demonstrated the good working relationship and collaboration, especially in promoting private sector development in the COMESA region.

The theme for the 16th High level COMESA Business Forum is “Economic Integration for A Thriving COMESA Anchored on Green Investment, Value Addition and Tourism”, which speaks to some of the key issues that are expected to propel and transform the COMESA Member States into competitive and sustainable growing economies in trade and investment, post the COVID-19 pandemic era. We are privileged this time to have a Presidential Round Table discussion, where the Heads of State and Government will discuss measures to accelerate recovery of the COMESA Member States from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on green investment, value addition and tourism.  The Heads of State will be joined by private sector players in the discussion. You will all agree with me that this is a good public-private sector platform to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the COMESA region and agree on the measures to address them. The Presidential Round Table will be taking place in the afternoon and will be led by His Excellency, Mr Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia. We look forward to seeing you there.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the economic front, I wish to report that the COMESA region realized an average economic growth of 4.8% in 2022, which is a decline from 5.9% in 2021. The slowdown of economic growth in 2022 was attributed to several factors, including the global economic shock triggered by the geopolitical tensions and conflict in Europe which affected global commodity prices. However, as COMESA, we look to the future with real optimism.

In 2021, the COMESA region recorded an increase in trade, globally and within. The value of COMESA’s total exports to the world significantly increased by 56% from US$ 100 billion in 2020 to US$ 156 billion in 2021. Exports of food from the region also recorded a year-on-year increase of 15% from US$ 19.6 billion in 2020 to US$ 22.5 billion in 2021.

The value of Intra-COMESA total exports increased by 28% from US$ 10 billion in 2020 to US$ 13 billion in 2021. This is a positive sign for the COMESA region, especially in view of the policy of promoting regional value chains further. This indeed underpins one of the reasons for organizing this Forum.

Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished participants,

To increase intra-COMESA Trade, there is a need for Public-Private Sector partnership. As the COMESA Secretariat, we are happy to leverage existing COMESA institutions such as the COMESA Business Council (CBC) to increase intra-COMESA Trade through private sector development. It is always important to synergise and capitalise on each other’s strengths in targeted focus areas.

The COMESA Secretariat and CBC are closely working together on several initiatives in promoting private sector development in the COMESA region. Under the Regional Enterprise Competitiveness and Access to Markets Program (RECAMP), the COMESA Secretariat and CBC together with International Trade Centre (ITC) are working on an initiative to promote the use of the African Trade Observatory Portal, which provides market information to businesses in the COMESA region. This initiative is helping businesses to exploit opportunities in regional and continental markets. Already, the initiative has supported six (6) capacity building workshops in six (6) COMESA Member States, and we continue to reach out to many more Member States.

In addition to the above, the COMESA Secretariat, with the support of the African Development Bank (AfDB), is set to commence implementing the African Union (AU)’s Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA) and the African Medicines Regulatory Harmonization (AMRH) in the context of the COMESA region, this year. The overall objective of the initiative is to strengthen the region’s pharmaceutical institutions, regulatory bodies, and quality control and management systems for the development of the pharmaceutical industry. It is important to note that this initiative will ensure that there is increased local manufacturing of essential medicines and medical supplies that are of high quality, safe, effective, and accessible to the population of the region.  This is coming at a time when Member States are still recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The key components of this initiative include institutionalization and domestication of the pharmaceutical manufacturing plan for Africa and the African Medicines Regulatory Harmonization program; strengthening of the region’s medicines and pharmaceutical regulatory bodies/institutions; capacity building and supporting research and development programs. We will work closely with CBC to achieve the objectives of this initiative.

It is important to note that now COMESA has a functional regional Committee of Health Ministers, which had its first meeting last year. The COMESA Secretariat is also working closely with this Committee to implement this initiative and other related health programmes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This Forum will discuss the promotion of Regional Food Trade in COMESA, and Regional Value Chains and Building Capacity of Producers/Industries in the COMESA region. Regional Food Trade is greatly influenced by the ability to comply with Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Non-compliance with these non-tariff measures due to capacity constraints hinders access to regional and global markets and is increasingly becoming a significant barrier to trade, particularly in agricultural commodities.

The promotion of regional value chains is therefore important for regional integration. Regional value chains offer opportunities for countries to climb up the value chain by using the region to boost their competitiveness and producing and exporting higher value-added products. Well-established regional value chains offer opportunities for countries in the region to link gainfully into continental value chains and increase countries’ bargaining power with the external lead firms.

In addition to the above, the regional value chains are key to reducing export dependency on unprocessed goods and natural resources, paving the way towards higher value addition and a more diversified export basket. The regional value chains need to be accompanied by good productive capacity among the producers /manufacturers in the region in order to fully exploit the benefits of these opportunities. Therefore, we shall continue to create a good policy environment and build adequate capacity among the producers /manufacturers in the COMESA region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you may be aware, COMESA successfully hosted its 21st Summit in November 2021, in hybrid format in Cairo, Egypt, where CBC made a presentation on the COMESA Business Declaration. We are looking forward to a similar presentation of the Business Declaration at the 22nd Summit of Heads of State and Government to be held tomorrow on 8th June 2023. It was also during the 21st Summit that the Heads of State unanimously offered their support towards the implementation of CBC’s flagship program on Digital Financial Inclusion, whose overall goal is to support the development of a Regional Digital Retail Payments Platform that serves Micro Small and Medium sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in the COMESA region thereby improving cross border trade.

As I conclude, I would like to wish all participants a fruitful deliberation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished participants,

It is now my pleasure and honour, to invite, Hon. Chipoka Mulenga, M.P, Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Zambia, to give his remarks and officially open the 16th High Level COMESA Business Forum.

I thank you all for your attention.


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