The Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia Dr. Debretsion GebreMichael has urged COMESA countries to allocate substantial funds to infrastructure development and renewal, so that the whole region can be inter-linked and equitably developed.
He was speaking yesterday when he opened the 34th Meeting of the COMESA Council of Ministers at the African Union headquarters in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia whose theme is “Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialization”.
Dr. Debretsion noted that COMESA’s regional integration programs were bearing positive results and cited agriculture and industrial development as two sectors that have enabled some member States to produce excess food for national and regional consumption.
“This increased level of production has not only contributed to food self-sufficiency and increased commodity exports within and beyond but has also contributed to deeper linkages with agro-processing and value addition in various sectors,” the Minister noted.
He also cited Trade and development as bearing positive results. For instance, under the Free Trade Area, intra-COMESA trade grew in 2013 by over 8% compared to 2012 from US$19.3 billion to US$20.9 billion the following year excluding the informal trade across borders, which has been estimated at over 30 percent of formal trade.
The Deputy Prime Minister called on the Ministers to review the current programmes and recommend concrete measures that will help the region further deepen and accelerate integration programs.
Dr GrebreMicheal, who is also the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, said in the recent past, Ethiopia has invested heavily in large-scale economic infrastructure and energy projects. The sustained investment in transport, energy, water, communications and information technology is therefore critical to enhancing economic growth and development in the COMESA region, the Minister said.
“Statistics, however, indicate that many of our states do not sustainably invest in infrastructure development and renewal as measured by their overall budgetary allocations to the sector. Unfortunately, poor infrastructure lies behind many of the barriers to trade in Africa in general and the COMESA region in particular,” the Minister said.
Speaking earlier, COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said there was need for a paradigm shift in regional integration. This would help leapfrog the integration agenda which is not performing at its fullest potential.
‘’As a region we have a lot of potential which we must take advantage of. Recent studies conducted by COMESA show that this region has a trade potential of USD$98 billion in already developed industries and production capacities.’’
He added that COMESA was the first regional economic community to launch a Free Trade Area and that has boasted intra-COMESA trade from USD3.1bn in 2000 to over USD22 billion currently.
Mr Ngwenya urged the Ministers and delegates to come up with innovative means of funding at the national and regional level so that programmes can be implemented smoothly.
He thanked cooperating partners for their continued support to COMESA and cited ut the European Union for being the largest supporter to the regional bloc. so far, the EU has allocated 600 million Euros to infrastructure development in COMESA under the 11th European Development Fund, he said.
The COMESA Council of Ministers is the second highest decision making organ of the organization and is instrumental in realizing the regional integration agenda. The Council makes key decisions and further makes recommendations on how to deepen regional integration to the Authority of Heads of State and Governments.