By Gracious Madondo
Harare – Ministers of industry from the 21 Common Market for Eastern and Southern African (COMESA) member states have committed to building harmonised frameworks, guidelines and management of special economic zones and industrial parks.
The initiative is part of the COMESA Local Content Policy Framework aimed at transforming the region’s low productivity economies from over-reliance on export of unprocessed primary commodities into competitive ones that produce and export value added products.
This will contribute to full implementation of the 2019 COMESA Industrialization Strategy and Action, which seeks to guide structural economic transformation.
COMESA Secretary-General Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe told a recent meeting of the bloc’s industry ministers that, “The initiative will include supporting learning events and profiling some SEZ projects that could serve as regional centres of excellence. Besides, the Secretariat will promote the development of border economic zones and facilitate the needed technical assistance for their development, among others.”
After a communique after that meeting, Malawian Industry Minister Roy Kachale said the development of the harmonisation frameworks was timely given the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is no better time than now when the African Continental Free Trade Area promises to offer an even bigger opportunity for countries to widen their access to the global supply chain and export high value goods and services,” Minister Kachale added.
Zimbabwean Industry and Commerce Minister Sekai Nzenza added that industrial development was critical in addressing challenges to inclusive and sustainable economic transformation.
The industry ministers also approved the COMESA Guidelines on Increasing Sustainable and Inclusive Industrial Production during and after COVID-19.
The guidelines provide for enhancement of digital transformation such as e-commerce and e-trade to reduce and avoid physical contacts during transactions within and across member states while at the same time minimising transaction costs.
The COMESA industrialisation strategy is aligned with the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA3) whose guiding principles include government ownership and leadership of the initiative, strengthened enabling business environment, prioritised sectors with high potential for growth, and strong partnerships for financial and non-financial resource mobilisation at regional and continental levels.