Category Archives: COMESA

Rwanda to access €832,615 to Support Regional Integration Programmes

Rwanda is set to access additional financing of €832,615 for implementing regional integration programmes. This is part of the support provided to the country under the COMESA Adjustment Facility (CAF) funded from the 10th European Development Fund, Regional Integration Support Mechanism (RISM) programme. This follows the signing of the funding addendum by the Minister of Finance and National Planning, Hon. Claver Gatete, and the Secretary
General of COMESA, Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya Kigali, Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Secretary General said the resources being committed today are the last available under the framework of the EU funded RISM programme. “This is why I am challenging us today to set aside counterpart funding from our national budgets to support regional integration programmes and ensure sustainability of the efforts put in place through CAF funding,” Mr. Ngwenya said. He said the funds will be used implement the adjustment programmes which aim to expand exports into COMESA and beyond, strengthen the local capacity at both institutional and small and medium enterprises level and implement some of the country’s commitments under COMESA.

Hon. Gatete appreciated the support to Rwanda noting that “The Grant will contribute towards regional integration efforts such as further reduction of non-tariff barriers as well as facilitate smooth cross border trade. COMESA is our valued partner in regional integration and we look forward to more partnerships.
Rwanda was awarded the funds by the COMESA Fund Ministerial Committee, held in Lusaka in December 2017. This followed a positive assessment of Rwanda’s achievements in its commitments on regional indicators under the programme. Among these are: the operationalization of a National Trade Policy Forum; removal of 13 Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) since 2011 and adoption of 253 Harmonized EAC standards since 2013 and the signing of a protocol with DR Congo establishing a Simplified Trade Regime between their small-scale traders. In addition, Rwanda has submitted a final schedule of commitment in four key priority services sectors and liberalized Air Transport in accordance with COMESA legal notice No.2 of 1999.

COMESA Virtual University Programme to Begin in Two Months

Admission of the pioneer students of the COMESA Virtual University will commence in May 2018 at the Kenyatta University in Kenya. The admission was planned to kick off in September 2017 but was delayed to allow the conclusion of administrative procedures of the university education regulatory authority in Kenya

Kenyatta University was selected to host the first Masters Degree program in regional integration during a consultative forum of the 22 collaborating universities from COMESA Member States. At the forum, it was agreed to commence a collaborative masters’ degree programme in regional integration in the medium term, with an objective of establishing a fully-fledged university in the long run.

The COMESA Virtual University Masters Degree is a multi-disciplinary program intended to bring together world-class academics, researchers and practitioners from leading institutions around the world to learning centres in participating universities through a virtual platform. The course is a professional course designed for government officials working in departments dealing with trade, integration and cooperation issues and students intending to work as trade officers, trade policy analysts, advisers, researchers and trade attaches.

It also targets the private sector trade practitioners and economic operators; journalists covering trade issues; chambers of commerce, manufacturer and consumer associations, diplomatic missions, development organizations dealing with trade and integration issues, among others. It is also suitable for middle level trade researchers and consultants.

The teaching modules for 30 courses have been developed with financial support from the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF). The review process was done by academic experts across the world to ensure good quality of the material and knowledge to be passed to the students. To obtain the degree, students will be required to take and pass 10 core courses and five electives, and complete a dissertation and an internship, over a two-year period.
The program will provide a sound conceptual, policy and practical training on regional integration, but will also help extend access to research opportunities and higher education on regional integration within and outside the COMESA region. The program covers economics, trade, law, political economy, trade and finance, IT and innovation, among others.

Last week, a COMESA Secretariat team led by the Director of Trade and Customs, Dr Francis Mangeni met stakeholders in Kenya, among them, the State Department of International Trade, the Kenyan Commission of University Education and the Kenyatta University to fast-track the remaining steps towards kickstarting the first semester.
Dr Chris Kiptoo, the Principal Secretary in the State Department of International Trade pledged Kenya’s commitment in ensuring the implementation of the programme begins as planned.

The Vice Chancellor of Kenyatta University, Prof Paul Wainaina confirmed its readiness to offer the unique masters programme. The University Senate approved the Programme in 2017 and submitted it to Kenya Commission of University Education (KCUE) for final approval in October 2017. It was confirmed that the KCUE had now accredited the programme and given Kenyatta University the go ahead to advertise for admission of students to commence learning in May 2018 when it next trimester begins.

“The Kenyatta University Digital School is also working round the clock to ensure that the first trimester modules are sunk into the tablets to be distributed to students and the e-tutors are trained by April 2018 so that in May the teaching commences,” Dr Mangeni reported.

In the first Trimester, five core courses will be taught: Economic Research Methodology; Microeconomic Foundations for Trade; International Trade Theory and Policy; International Trade Law and Theory of Regional Integration.
The programme was launched in October 2016 during the COMESA Heads of State Summit in Madagascar as a response to some of the challenges facing regional integration not only in COMESA but Africa at large.

“A critical cause of the slow progress in regional integration is the inability of governments to implement the numerous obligations and programs, due to the apparent lack of institutional and human capital and related support mechanisms,” Dr Mangeni said. “Regional integration programs are not always woven into or operationalised as part of the domestic policy processes.”
It is believed that the small number of continental institutions offering appropriate, flexible and affordable Regional Integration programs is a contributing factor. The COMESA Virtual University is therefore a response to this situation.

COMESA Renews Mining Deal with Western Australia

COMESA Secretariat and the Government of Western Australia have renewed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on mining for a six years period. The two parties signed the MoU at a ceremony in South Africa on the side-lines of the Mining Indaba Conference earlier this month in Cape Town.
Honourable Bill Joseph Johnston, Minister of Mines and Petroleum, signed on behalf of the Government of Western Australia while Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya signed for COMESA.
The MoU is expected to bolster support of the mining sector in the COMESA region. The pact provides a framework for cooperation between COMESA Member States and the Government of Western Australia in mineral and petroleum resources, agriculture, vocational training and capacity building.

The COMESA Industrial Policy and Strategy identifies Mining as a the key priority sectors with the highest potential for minerals that can be harnessed for economic transformation in the region. Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo dominates the mining industry in the COMESA region.

The MoU covers the following areas of: information sharing on the development and administration of mining and petroleum policies, legal and regulatory frameworks in COMESA Member States (particularly in the areas of development of title management systems) special agreements, ownership of minerals, administration of royalty regimes, community development agreements and regulation of safety and environmental performance.

Other areas are training and human resources development in geosciences and the regulation of minerals and petroleum sectors; encouragement of exchange of faculty, researchers and graduate students at the tertiary level and promotion strategies for investment in minerals and petroleum and the development of linkages including integrating artisanal and small-scale mining into the major value chains.

COMESA signed the first MoU with the Government of Western Australia on 31st January 2014 in Lusaka, Zambia. Since then, COMESA Member States and the Secretariat participates in the annual mining conference in Australia (Africa Down Under) and the Indaba. The events unite investors, mining companies, governments and other stakeholders from around the world to learn and network, all towards the single goal of advancing mining on the continent. The Mining Indaba, is also dedicated to supporting education, career development, sustainable development, and other important causes in Africa`s mining sector.

At the Indaba, the COMESA delegation networked with key stakeholders in the mining industry, including private sector and development partners among others. It was also an opportunity to promote COMESA’s brand and attract private sector investment in mining.
Other members of the COMESA team were the Director of Industry and Agriculture Mr. Thierry Mutombo, the Director of Legal and Institutional Affairs Mr. Brian Chigawa and Senior Private Sector Development Officer Mr. Innocent Makwiramiti.


More Countries Submit Lists of their Potential Hydro Power Plants

Three more COMESA countries have submitted to the Secretariat their lists of potential small hydro power projects that need development. This brings the number of countries that have submitted to nine.
The lists will be sent to potential developers and cooperating partners to be considered for financing and eventual implementation. With the latest submissions, Burundi, Comoros and the Democratic Republic of Congo now joins Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sudan and Zambia in the list.
“This is significate progress because the number of countries that have submitted has increased and we expect more to do so as soon as possible,”Chief Executive Officer of the Regional Association of Energy Regulators for Eastern and Southern Africa (RAERESA) Dr Mohamedain Seif Elnasr said. The COMESA region has prioritized the development of energy infrastructure for power generation, transmission and distribution as one way of boosting energy security and enhancing the bloc’s competitiveness.
In 2017, the COMESA Secretariat requested member States to compile and submit the lists of projects that could contribute to existing power supply. However, by October 2017, less than half of the countries had done so. This prompted COMESA Ministers of Infrastructure to give a deadline of November for the remaining countries to submit the lists. Currently, there are several power generation projects under development and construction in the different COMESA Member States with a potential of 27,821 megawatts.The total installed power generation capacity in the region is at 65,791 megawatts representing a 36% increase from the estimates of 48,352 in 2012.


Border officials trained on the COMESA Simplified Trade Regime

Border officials and traders at ten border points between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda have been empowered with knowledge on the COMESA Simplified Trade Regime and the minimum standards for treatment of small scale cross border traders.

The training and awareness creation programme conducted by COMESA staff was held under the World Bank funded Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project (GLTFP). The first phase of this project covers the DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.

The four main objectives of the workshops were to make the GLTFP known, to increase awareness among the customs, immigration, police and health officers, Cross Border Traders Associations (CBTAs), cross border traders and other stakeholders on the COMESA STR and the regulations on minimum standards for the treatment of small scale cross border traders.

Other objectives were that improved understanding of the STR is expected to contribute to greater impetus towards implementation of the STR and ultimately more small scale traders benefitting from the regime.

The enhanced understanding of gender issues and the regulations on the minimum standards for the treatment of small scale traders would contribute to more professional treatment of small scale traders and reduction of incidents of harassment, corruption, conflict and other malpractices and ultimately reduce costs of doing business by small scale traders.

The borders that were trained are Rusizi and Rubavu in Rwanda, Bukavu, Bunagana, Kasindi, Mahagi and Goma in the DRC and Bunagana, Mpondwe and Goli in Uganda.

Each of the 10 awareness workshops held from 7 – 21 December 2017, was attended by an average of 50 participants.

Green Energy in Focus as AU – EU Celebrates 10 Years of Partnership

Investing in off-grid solutions using renewable energies would save US$35,000 per kilometer for transmission lines, COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya told delegates attending the 10th Anniversary of the Africa – European Union Energy Partnership in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, last week.

He said that financing and business models for off-grid electrification, through green energy technologies such as solar, wind, geothermal, should include the community owned mini-grid management. He proposed for further exploration of the utility-based model, private sector-led mini-grids, and also hybrid models which would try to combine different approaches.

“Energy linkages to other sectors, in particular, renewable energy such as solar, wind, geothermal small hydro power, etc., could be used to support public uses such as lighting and vocational teaching in schools, sterilization, refrigeration and other usages in health clinics, public water systems, and street lighting,” Mr. Ngwenya said.

“The low population density in Africa would require massive investment to increase the access to energy,” the Secretary General stated. “The productive uses of electricity in agro-industries could be significant and these benefits could be related to the expansions in output and the existence of a market for the output, as well as employment expansion.”

Mr. Ngwenya stressed the need to ensure that Africa takes the advantage of the different financing windows available such as the one trillion dollars from climate change to leapfrog to increase access to electricity.

On Africa-EU Energy Partnership Perspectives, the Secretary General indicated that over the 10 years of Africa-EU Energy Partnership, substantial progress between Africa and Europe has been realized. This range from political declarations and agreements to technical assistance and actual projects in the African countries.

The AEEP’s objective is to improve access to secure, affordable and sustainable energy for both continents, with a special focus on increasing investment in energy infrastructure in Africa. The AEEP Steering Group is comprised of the European Commission, the African Union Commission, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Egypt, Germany and Italy.

The Secretary General assured of COMESA’s willingness to continue supporting the Africa EU Energy Partnership in the development of legal and institutional frameworks for public private sector partnerships.  This he noted, would increase the private sector participation in infrastructure development and especially in the energy sector.

The African perspective on the way forward in this partnership was to pursue the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 7 to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Other speakers included Mr. Stefano Manservisi, Director General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), European commission; Ambassador Sergio Mercuri, Minister Plenipotentiary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Italy and Mr. Cheikh Bedda, Director of Infrastructure and Energy, African Union Commission.

The AEEP event at the EU-Africa Business Forum was attended by representatives of the private sector who are engaged in the Partnership’s work, as well as other stakeholder’s central to the achievement of the AEEP 2020 Targets. The key messages and conclusions of the AEEP event, together with those of other sessions at the EU-Africa Business Forum, will feed into the AU-EU Summit.

Proposed COMESA 2018 Annual Budget Drops

Lusaka.The proposed 2018 annual budget for the COMESA Secretariat and its agencies has declined by US$10 million dollars as several cooperating partners grants come to an end. This was revealed during the opening of the 37th meeting of the Committee on Administration and Budgetary matters.

“The annual budget will decrease from USD42 million in 2017 to USD32 million for 2018. This translates into a 30% reduction,” Mr. Ngwenya said. Member States are expected to contribute $16.7 million while cooperating partners are expected to provide $15.6 million

He told the delegates that funding from cooperating partners may however increase for 2018 if the programming processes of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) funds are completed early and grant agreements are signed.

Among the COMESA agencies that will be affected are the Regional Investment Agency (RIA) the Federation of Women in Business (FEMCOM) and the COMESA Competition Commission.

In his official address, the Secretary General urged Member States to put up deliberate measures to increase the proportion of their financial contribution to the budget.

He noted: “At some point, our cooperating partners will naturally expect COMESA Member States to assume a greater share of funding of the COMESA work programme.”

To ensure the desired levels of integration and cooperation is achieved, the Secretary General called for the speedy implementation of agreed COMESA instruments by member states. He noted that the current levels of production and infrastructure development were affecting job creation and intra-COMESA trade.

“COMESA may not achieve the desired development milestones in 2020 at this low implementation level of COMESA instruments,” he said.

The Administrative and Budgetary Committee supports and guides the Secretariat in administrative, financial, human resources and audit matters.

During the three-day meeting, the Committee will consider matters relating to the management of human resources, review the current (2017) and previous (2016) performance and the 2018 work programme and budget for the COMESA Secretariat, institutions and agencies.

Delegates will examine the consolidated internal audit report which highlights areas that the secretariat is working on to enhance corporate governance and institutional systems

They will also review the internal financial controls ranging from strengthening of financial reporting, external audit, report on internal controls findings and new policy instruments.

Participants comprise technical officers from governments of the 19 COMESA member states. Their report will be presented to the 37th meeting of the COMESA Intergovernmental Committee and eventually to the Council of Ministers meeting next week for decision making.

COMESA Policy Organs Meetings Begins this Week

Top ranking government officials led by Ministers from the 19 COMESA Member States will be converging in Lusaka, Zambia in the next two weeks for the annual decision-making meetings. They will be taking part in the 37th COMESA Council of Ministers’ meeting, the Intergovernmental Committee (IC) and the Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Matters.

The Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Matters will be the curtain raiser and takes place from Thursday to Saturday 26 – 28 October 2017. It will be followed by the IC from Monday 30 October to Wednesday 1st November 2017 and the Council of Ministers meeting on Thursday and Friday 2nd and 3rd November 2017.

The theme for the meetings is ‘COMESA Towards Digital Economic Integration’. It seeks to refocus attention on the need to harness the potential of information communication technologies in addressing the existential challenges of regional integration. It comes at a time when the COMESA Secretariat has embarked on a digitization drive that has so far transformed all its meetings to paperless.

Further, it has introduced software’s to capture small scale trade data using smart phones to promote e-business; launched a Short Messaging Service (SMS) for reporting trade barriers and working on a digital Free Trade Area Application that will incorporate

e-Commerce, e-Legislation and e-Logistics.

Delegates in the Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Matters will deal with budget of the Secretariat including Member States assessed contributions. It is expected to come up with innovative ways of financing regional integration programmes given the challenges that some member States have in meeting their financial obligations to the Secretariat and its institutions.

The Intergovernmental Committee will bring together Permanent or Principal Secretaries designated by each of the 19 Member States. It is responsible for the development of programmes and action plans in all fields of co-operation except in the finance and monetary sector. The IC will review various status reports on the implementation of regional integration programmes.

The recommendations of the IC meeting which will incorporate that of the administrative and budget matters will be presented to the Council of the Ministers for decision making. The decisions taken by the Council will be binding to all the Member States and will also constitute the work programme for the COMESA Secretariat in the coming year and beyond. Development partners that support COMESA programmes will attend some of the sessions.

COMESA Region set to Abolish Roaming Charges

Citizens in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) may soon enjoy reduced calling charges, courtesy of a decision taken yesterday by Ministers in charge of infrastructure.

In their 10th meeting that took place in Lusaka, Zambia, 3 – 4 October 2017, the Ministers and government representatives from 15 of the 19 COMESA countries resolved to initiate action towards abolishing roaming charges levied on mobile calls.

The move is intended to bring down the price of information communication and technology services that remains high in Africa compared to other regions of the world.

In their final report, the Ministers observed: “Although the pricing of voice services in many African countries was becoming competitive and comparable with the rest of the world, the cost of broadband continued to be out of reach of most people.”

They noted that Africans paid on average 25 per cent of monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita mobile cellular calls compared to 11 per cent in other developing nations.

In COMESA region, studies have shown that Malawians use more than $12 (£7.70) a month on mobile phones., the minister noted.

“This is more than half of what an ordinary Malawian earns in a month which is very expensive,” the Ministers noted. Hence there was a general concern on high mobile termination and roaming charges. They noted that although mobile phones had provided new sources of originating international traffic, it was also more expensive to terminate traffic on mobile networks.

The ministers urged the COMESA member States to emulate other grouping in Africa and beyond in coming up with reduced roaming and termination charges. They cited the East African Community which has eliminated roaming and termination charges and the European Union where mobile operators were no longer charging additional fees to their customers for using their phones anywhere else in the region.

“The ICT regulators are encouraged to carry out studies to reduce the interconnection rates and reduce or eliminate the roaming charges,” said the Ministers. “Member States are encouraged to invest into the Fibre Technology to The Home (FTTH) to increase capacity and provide excellent quality.

The ministers observed that despite substantial investments in network infrastructure in the recent years, Africa lacked a robust network connectivity and high-quality, affordable Internet access.

They noted: “COMESA countries represent over 37% of the internet users in Africa and Africa represents 7% of the internet world’s users. Hence, COMESA constitutes 2.5% of the world’s population of the internet users.

In their decision, which is binding to all the COMESA countries, the Ministers called for setting up of proper regulation to encourage investment in the Virtual Mobile Network Operator (MVNOs) to enhance competition and increase access. In Africa, MVNO permits have been issued in Morocco, Kenya and South Africa.

Unlocking COMESA’s US$80bn trade potential pegged on infrastructure

The 10th meeting of the COMESA Ministers responsible for Transport and Communications, Information Technology and Energy concluded in Lusaka, Zambia.

The ministers considered the report of the COMESA committee of infrastructure experts’ that concluded on Monday 2nd October 2017 which reviewed the status of domestication and implementation of programmes in transport and communications, energy and information technology in the region.

At the opening of the meeting, COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya informed the Ministers that the absence of cross border production networks that would result in intra industry trade between and among firms within the region has been a major trade barrier.

“The current intra-regional trade in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa is US$20 billion with a potential of over US$82.3 billion,” he said. This potential can only be unlocked by addressing transport and logistic challenges which are fundamental to the COMESA agenda of inclusive and sustainable industrialization.”

The sectors with the highest intraregional trade potential are textiles, wooden furniture, horticulture, household items, confectioneries, hides and skins, footwear and leather products, sugar confectioneries, tobacco and precious metals.

The Secretary General observed that COMESA Member States have the highest potential in producing and exporting the products whose total value is approximately 10 times that of existing trade. He noted that while considerable progress has been made in establishing favourable trading arrangements among member states, there was need to ensure the productive side was properly structured.

“The paradox is that the products are produced and exported to the rest of the world and at the same time imported from the rest of the world into the region,”

Since the launch of the COMESA free trade area in 2000, intra-regional trade has risen from US$3.2 billion in 2000 to the current $20 billion.

Zambia’s Acting Minister of Transport and Communications Mathews Nkhuwa opened the meeting. He called on member states to put in place policies, systems, institutions and resources to ensure adequate infrastructure capacity in terms of quantity and quality.

“We need to mobilize adequate resources to address this challenge in line with national and regional priorities because infrastructure is pivotal in enhancing economic development of the region,” Nkhuwa said.

A report presented to the Ministers at the meeting highlighted notable infrastructural projects that have been completed in the region. These include the first phase of the standard gauge railway between Mombasa and Nairobi which will eventually connect Kenya to Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan. Ethiopia has also completed constructing a 750-kilometer standard gauge railway which will connect to Djibouti.

In the energy sector, the region currently has a total installed power generation capacity estimated at 65,791 megawatts as at the end of 2016. This is a 36% increase from 2012 figures of 48,352 megawatts.

On ICT, COMESA countries represent 37% of the internet users in Africa. There is therefore needed to do more to enable majority of Africans have access to ICT services.

At the meeting, the Ministers were taken through a new transport system known as the Futran. The System which was developed in South Africa seeks to address the need for a new class of cost effective large scale transportation systems in Africa especially for densely populated cities. It can be applied to bulk freight, factories and warehouses, and public transport.

Once implemented the Futran System shall provide efficient, cost effective, transportation for the goods from points production to market places at very low costs and provide affordable rates for passengers.