Wed, 04 Oct 2023

LUSAKA, June 8 (Xinhua) -- The 22nd Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Heads of State and Government Summit opened here Thursday, with leaders calling for accelerated efforts to achieve economic integration.

The summit, held at the China-built ultra-modern Kenneth Kaunda International Conference Center, also saw Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema taking over the chairmanship of Africa's largest bloc from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. The summit was held under the theme, "Economic Integration for a Thriving COMESA Anchored on Green Investment, Value Addition and Tourism."

In his remarks, the Zambian president said Africa need to accelerate efforts for its integration agenda by removing bottlenecks that were hindering connectivity and business.

According to him, there was a need to remove non-stop-border posts in order to reduce the cost of business as well as to harmonize borders to make the continent stronger and enhance intra-trade. Regional integration will only become a reality if African countries start making bold decisions instead of waiting for outsiders.

"Let us think inside before we look outside. As we endeavor to look outside for investment, we should look inside ourselves as a continent," he said.

He suggested COMESA should leverage its potential and fully participate on the economic global stage, stressing that the ambitions of achieving green investment, value addition and tourism growth will only become a reality when member states realize their potential.

The Zambian president, however, said there was a need for Africa to address instability in some parts of the continent because peace was important to sustainable economic development.

The Egyptian president emphasized the importance of peace to ensure sustainable economic development. He outlined the achievements made by COMESA despite numerous challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change. He also called for the deepening of relations among COMESA member states in order to promote sustainable economic growth.

Kenyan President William Ruto said the lack of a simple payment system from one country to another passes through various intermediaries resulting in increased costs. He further said Kenya has had challenges to export and import products in some countries due to challenges of the U.S. dollar.

Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera urged regional countries to promote economic integration.

"We need to integrate our economies urgently so that we have collective resilience against unpredictable external forces that are coming against us with greater and greater frequency over time," he said.

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