President William Ruto has told the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member countries to change tact in their approach to trade.
Addressing the 22nd COMESA Summit of Heads of State and Government in Lusaka, Zambia, on Thursday, the head of state said the bloc must embrace a systemic shift to exploit its untapped potential.
He said it is time COMESA espoused value addition, especially of agricultural commodities, to enhance productivity. “The shift will also offer higher returns, incentivise industrialisation, boost our competitiveness and create employment,” he said.
The president urged Africa to move away from primary production and exports of raw materials to manufacturing. “The potential for intra-COMESA trade is colossal; the demand for value-added products is bound to keep growing well into the future,” he explained.
He asked COMESA member States to take advantage of its 580 million market demand to enhance trade and noted that Africa must utilise its rich, clean energy to advance its industrial development. “We are championing for the radical repositioning of Africa as the clean, green continent of the future in order to exploit the opportunities arising from the transition to green industrialization,” he said.
President Ruto also called for the consolidation of the COMESA, the East African Community, and the Southern African Development Community to enhance the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement. “It is also time we elavated the Africa Union to have the power to negotiate for the collective interests of Africa.” He said the move will boost Africa’a bargaining power at the global scene.
Present during the summit were Presidents Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (Egypt), Hakainde Hichilema (Zambia), Lazarus Chakwera (Malawi), Évariste Ndayishimiye (Burundi), COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe, among others. The summit marked the end of President El-Sisi’s chairmanship era as he handed over to President Hichilema.