By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
THE slowing down of economic performance for Zambia and other COMESA member states due to Covid-19 should be used as a motivation to boost joint investments in various infrastructure sectors such as telecommunications, transportation and energy.
Many challenges have been presented by the Covid-19 pandemic on most COMESA member states, whose economic performances have declined with the slowdown of the global economy, says Chileshe Kapwepwe.
Ms Kapwepwe said this recently at a press conference with Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry, Nevine Gamea.
“These challenges are a motivation for COMESA countries to continue working to deepen economic integration and create a conducive climate for the business community and the private sector, intensifying efforts to boost joint investments in various infrastructure sectors, and most notably in telecommunications, transportation and energy,” she said
Ms Kapwepwe said COMESA was one of the regional economic integration groups, which aims to achieve economic integration among the countries of the North, East and Southern Africa, through the establishment of a free trade area, followed by a customs union, and finally a common market among its member states.
She pointed out that COMESA average economic growth rate hit 5.6 percent in 2019 but fell significantly during 2020 due to the fallout of the pandemic on most member countries.
“The International Monetary Fund forecasts a rebound in the COMESA economic growth to 4.3 percent this year and six percent in 2022, thanks to a worldwide economic recovery driven by vaccination efforts against the Covid-19 virus and a pickup in global demand,” Ms Kapwepwe said.
And Ms Gamea said Egypt’s chairing of COMESA would support its determined efforts, with other African countries, to achieve economic integration on the continent.
She said this included support to overcome obstacles that may hinder free trade between COMESA members.
“It will also strengthen cooperation among investment agents in Africa and open communication channels between the governments of member countries and the private sector to facilitate the movement of investments within the continent,” Ms Gamea said.She also said Egypt was one of the key economic forces in COMESA, having the largest share of intra-COMESA trade in 2020, with a total of US$2.7 billion.
“COMESA is also a promising market for Egyptian exports, which accounted for 20 percent of exports within the bloc, worth US$2 billion; while imports from COMESA amounted to US$700 million,” she said.