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.