By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
DIGITISATION of industry remains a core pre-requisite for promoting trade and regional integration especially during the current Covid-19 period among the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) countries.
This is especially where there is a greater call for improving regional supply chains in order to advance industrialization and increase trade among member countries, says COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe.
Ms Kapwepwe highlighted the emerging barriers on the free movement of people as it related to Covid-19 pandemic. She cited constraints affecting the industry competitiveness that needed to be addressed.
“These include inadequate infrastructure development; limited technical capacity of manufacturers and agro-industry players; limited access to finance by growth enterprises; and limited access to regional and global value chains by Small and Medium Enterprises SMEs,” she said.
This was during the 16th virtual meeting of the COMESA Business Council (CBC) Board of Directors.
Ms Kapwepwe said that CBC, working in collaboration with COMESA, had been at the forefront of the development of the regional guidelines on the movement of essential goods and services across the region during the Covid-19 period.
This, she said, underscored the importance for consistent involvement and advocacy of the private sector in policy making processes and public-private dialogue to address some of the notable challenges in regional trade. The CBC 16th Board Meeting also commended the institution’s 2020 financial performance and approved the financial statements.
It also lauded were the strides made in institutional strengthening; the agility in adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic. CBC Chairperson, Marday Venkatasamy, shared highlights on COMESA Business Council’s achievements for the year 2020 and the first half of 2021.
Some of these included the establishment of the CBC Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Workgroup, which had had three. Mr Venkatasamy observed that there was an emerging discriminatory practice on the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved vaccines that were a requisite for entry to some European countries and called for the African Union to appeal against it.
He pointed out that the practice was coming at the time when Africa was exploring ways of developing its own vaccines, further noting that health security should be a top priority issue for African countries.