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MINISTERS of industry from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) have approved the implementation strategy of the regional Local Content policy framework and management of the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and Industrial Parks.

The COMESA Local Content policy framework is aimed at helping to transform the region’s low productivity economies, from overreliance on export of unprocessed primary commodities to competitive economies that produce and export value added products.

This is according to a statement issued in Lusaka.

With the approval, Member States would formulate similar policies to maximise local benefits from industrialisation.

Equally, the adopted framework of managing SEZ and industrial parks would guide Member States when domesticating SEZ strategies and industrial parks at the national level.

In a statement, the Ministers committed to ensuring the harmonised regional frameworks and guidelines are implemented in their respective countries.

Zimbabwean Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza observed that despite high growth potential in the region, poverty, unemployment, low investment levels, and depressed aggregate demand among others, are prevalent.

“This is attributed to depressed industrialization in our region,” Dr Nzenza said.

She said the industrial development was critical in addressing the productive constraints towards the realisation of inclusive and sustainable transformation of the region.

The approval of the frameworks would therefore enable the full implementation of the COMESA Industrialization Strategy and Action, which was adopted by the Ministers in 2019, to guide structural economic transformation of the region. Among its key component was the promotion of agriculture and value addition.

On its part, COMESA Secretariat committed to continue providing a platform for lobbying international technical and financial assistance to support the special economic zones development.

COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe said the initiatives would include supporting learning events and profiling some SEZ projects that could serve as regional centers of excellence.

“Besides, the Secretariat will promote the development of border economic zones and facilitate the needed technical assistance for their development, among others,” Ms Kapwepwe said.

In his closing remarks, Malawi Minister for Industry Roy Kachale, described the development of the frameworks as timely given the disruption occasioned by the COVID 19 pandemic.

“There is no better time than now when coming into effect of the African Continental Free Trade Area promises to offer an even greater opportunity for countries to widen their access to global supply chains and export higher value goods and services,” he said.

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