The 10th COMESA Business Dialogue under the theme “Taking Action on Illicit Trade- an Industrial Competitive Agenda” begins today at the African Union Conference Center. Hosted by the COMESA Business Council (CBC) and the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (ECCSA), the meeting is part of the COMESA Summit 2015, which kicked off on Wednesday the 18th of March.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Dr. Armany Asfour, Chairperson of the CBC said that illicit trade and illegal economic activities hamper the growth of businesses, the public and governments alike, making effective Public Private Partnership crucial to tackle it. “They harm our business, they cause governments to lose revenue and they are potential health threats to the public” she said. Solomon Afework, chairperson of ECCSA, on his part said that illicit trades, in their pursuit of unlawful private gain, “distort local economy.” In addition to that, as in the cases of illegal arms trade, “they help cause political instability.”
Ahmed Shide (pictured), State Minister of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) appreciated the timeliness of this year’s COMESA theme, “Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialization” and emphasized the importance of integration to confront the problem. “It is important that we tackle the issue of illicit trade. And this meeting is a key step in that direction,” he said.
Even though some of the COMESA member states are working to combat illicit trade, a regionally coordinated mechanism is lacking. Such fragmented nature of the legislations makes the fight against illicit trade hard to prosecute. As COMESA promotes free movement of goods as a key feature of the customs union, member states without anti illicit trade laws serve as entry points as well as channels in the whole region. The meeting is expected to address these issues.
Cover Photo: COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya addressing the delegates at the Business Dialogue.