President Joseph Kabila Kabange has taken over the leadership of the COMESA and outlined his vision for the regional economic bloc key among them being to entrench regional integration, enhance self- sustainability and encourage implementation of policy decisions among Member States.

In his speech after taking over from President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda during the 17th Heads of Summit in Kinshasa, President Kabila said that during his tenure, COMESA programmes will be accorded full support in order to speedily move towards achieving full integration.

“As a regional bloc, we are a united group in our external trade relations, speaking with one strong voice, a voice much stronger than the voice of any one single Member State dealing with the giants out there”, the President said.

President Kabila took over from President Museveni of Uganda as the Chairman of the COMESA Authority which comprises the Heads of State. He appealed to his counterparts to agree on a sustainable mechanism for funding COMESA regional integration programs.

“Our colleagues the Heads of State of ECOWAS, have agreed on a community levy of 1.5% of the customs duty, and this raises over $630 million per year for financing the ECOWAS integration programs.” President Kabila said.  He noted that most of the funds for COMESA came from donors a situation that was not sustainable.

On implementation of policy decisions, the President noted that there was a backlog of integration measures covering a wide range of areas critical to economic stability and development in the region which needed to be implemented. These are mainly decisions taken by the Council of Ministers of the COMESA Member States.

“We need to move forward with courage and implement the Customs Union and the Common Market, which are due now. I appeal to you all to be bold and frank in forging ahead with the COMESA integration agenda, because we stand to gain a lot for our people and our region,” appealed the President.

In his address President Museveni who has been at the helm of the largest economic bloc in Africa since November 2012 emphasized the need for infrastructure development to drive the regional integration agenda and development. According to World Bank estimates, Africa needs US$ 93 billion every year to cover the funding gaps for infrastructure.

“We must get new ways of funding this deficit,” President. Museveni said. “First of all, we should ourselves exercise frugality and save money for infrastructure.”

He said apart from internal savings, other forms of funds mobilization should be considered such as using bonds and coupling self-financing projects with the ones that have got longer gestation periods in terms of infrastructure.

In an effort to raise infrastructure funds, a High Level infrastructure conference took place in Uganda in September 2013 which showcased projects at the Member State and regional level that were ready for financing in order to attract potential funding.

Among the Heads of State at the Summit were Presidents Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Michael Chilufya Sata (Zambia), Joyce Banda (Malawi) Omar Bashir (Sudan) and Ismaïl Omar Guelleh of Djibouti. Vice Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ministers represented the other Member States.


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