By Jailan Dahab
COMESA which stands for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa is a regional group aimed at achieving regional economic integration in Eastern and Southern Africa. Although COMESA is still in the early stages of regional integration, its intra-exports have increased to 1.3 billion dollars in 2019, compared to 831 million dollars in 2018, increasing by 60%.
Projects that have been implemented or are in the process of being implemented with the goal of improving the status and quality of life of youth:
1- Zimbabwe National Trade Development and Promotion Organization (ZimTrade)
COMESA provided equipment for ZimTrade as part of the Regional Integration Implementation Programme II, including servers, laptops, tablets, and other related accessories. The goal has been to enable and qualify ZimTrade to produce better statistical data and analysis about the Zimbabwean business sector, as well as to increase ZimTrade’s exports to the rest of the world.
The cotton industry, for example, has improved as the Cotton Research Institute began developing and testing numerous cotton fibers and varieties using HVI computers that document the final lint produced and inform businesses of seed varieties.
2- COMESA Youth Advisory Panel
Given that youth are the drivers and catalysts for change, member states agreed to involve youth from Eastern and Southern African countries in peacebuilding, conflict management, and conflict prevention. In addition, the first-ever Youth Advisory Panel was established in 2021, with 11 members elected by the National Youth Councils of COMESA countries for a three-year term, providing advice on the role of young people and how to facilitate their participation in the development and monitoring of national development plans and poverty reduction plans in COMESA countries, thereby bridging the gap between youth and policymakers.
3- Mainstreaming SPS Capacity-Building
This project aims to mainstream the novel Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) and priorities into the national policies of the targeted member states in Eastern and Southern Africa (Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, and Ethiopia). This project will provide excellent export opportunities, thereby increasing and boosting both international trade and intra-regional trade, which remains low in comparison to other regions due to a limited product range and an over-reliance on agriculture and fisheries.
4- Infrastructure Projects
According to the virtual meeting on May 31 and June 1, 2021, attended by 100 delegates, COMESA countries maintained a steady increase in electric power generation capacity, rising from 48,352 megawatts in 2016 to 95,945 megawatts in 2021. To maximize and reap the benefits, numerous initiatives have been launched, including the establishment of an electricity trading platform within the next two years. Furthermore, COMESA countries adopted the COMESA Instrument on Trade and Transit Facilitation through Cross-Border Transportation and Transit Licensing.
5- The Regional Infrastructure Finance Facility (RIFF) Project
The World Bank is funding the Regional Infrastructure Finance Facility (RIFF) Project for five years. The project’s three components are as follows: (i) providing long-term finance for infrastructure and finance projects with strategic relevance and cross-border benefits, as well as those that generate jobs and target low-income brackets; (ii) facilitating debt financing for small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly those in the renewable energy sector; and (iii) providing technical assistance to the Trade Development Bank.
6- ZTK Transmission Interconnector Project
The ZTK Transmission Interconnector project, which began as a bilateral project between Zambia and Tanzania, is now a trilateral project between the two countries and Kenya. It
consists of 9 substations and 2300 km of transmission lines that run from Zambia to Tanzania and then to Kenya.
7- Pan-African Road/Cairo-Cape Town Highway
This historic project, co-funded by the African Union, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and the African Development Bank, will aid in the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by facilitating intra-regional trade, easing the movement of goods, services, and people, and lowering transportation costs.
8- 50 Million African Women Speak Platform (50MAWSP)
The 50MAWSP seeks to mainstream the gender sensitive approach by facilitating women entrepreneurs’ access to information via social media functionality and peer-to-peer learning, as well as ensuring their access to financial services.
9- Cross-Border Infrastructure Project
The upgrading of cross-border infrastructure began in 2021 in order to promote cross-border
management and cooperation between Zambia on the one hand and Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania on the other. The project will promote customs cooperation between Zambia and other countries, as well as symmetrical knowledge of the Rules of Origin, lowering costs for both passengers and goods and lowering the number of reported cases of corruption and non-tariff trade barriers.
In conclusion, achieving regional integration in the COMESA region will create a better future for the most populated continent.