Museveni Assumes COMESA Chairmanship

mind geneva; font-size: small;”>Museveni exhibited a strong optimism that the region will now become a very robust trading area following the growing number of member countries of the trade body in the region.

illness geneva; font-size: small;”>The two-day summit that is taking place at Speke Resort Hotel Munyonyo in Kampala and is attended by Presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, web Mwai Kibaki of Kenya who is also the Chairman of the East African Community (EAC), Joyce Banda of Malawi and outgoing Chairperson of COMESA, the leader of the Comoros, Dr. Ikiliou Dhoinine and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Deselgan.

Uganda is hosting the Summit after Parliament recently ratified the COMESA Free Trade Area Pact making Uganda the 19th member of the organization with a huge market of nearly a half a billion people.

Uganda hopes to increase the trade volume for her exports within the region having joined the trading block. The Kampala COMESA Summit is running under the theme “Enhancing Intra-COMESA Trade through Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development.”

COMESA was born out of the initial trade body known as the Preferential Trade Area (PTA) in 1994 with a sole aim of achieving sustainable economic and social progress in all member countries that currently include Burundi, the Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

President Museveni at the opening of the summit this morning received the instruments of office as the new Chairman of COMESA, said that the trading body was on the right road adding that by coming together, member countries now become strong and will be able to enhance trade in the area.

He reminded the summit that Africa, since 1957, had faced some disadvantages that included mainly balkanization that caused problems of small economies with low purchasing power due to few consumers. He noted that without consumers, enterprises cannot thrive, industrialization cannot take place, jobs will not be created characterized by a narrow tax base and social services would be impossible.

The President cited China which is still a communist country that has since 1978 attracted US$1,232 trillion through Foreign Direct Investment and yet the whole of East Africa has at the same period attracted only US$19.1 billion only. He explained that China was able to make that achievement due to the absence of balkanization, their population of over a billion and the size of their land.

President Museveni, therefore, pointed out that the only therapy for Africa is integration that should have economic and political dimensions.

He informed the summit that East Africa has already made strides in that direction and aims at going beyond their borders by joining hands with other regional trade bodies.

He also stressed the importance of infrastructure like the railway lines that should link countries in the region in order to enhance trade at low costs.

The President said by 2077 Africa’s population is projected to have increased to 3 billion people noting that this big continental market will not only provide consumers for Africa’s products but will also be a bargaining power with world countries in terms of trade.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Ms. Nkosazana Dhlamini Zuma, called for an integrated, united and prosperous Africa adding that this should be the narrative of the leaders of Africa.

She also stressed that as the African Union is set to celebrate her Golden Jubilee, the Continent must in the next 50 years, ensure food security and the development of the people of Africa in the health and education sectors especially the youth who have a stake in the future for continuity.

She pledged the AU’s commitment to not only resolve conflicts on the continent but also to ensure that they are prevented.

The outgoing Chairperson of COMESA and also President of Malawi, Mrs. Joyce Banda, paid tribute to the late leaders Professor Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia for their contribution to the modernization of their respective countries’ economies.

She further commended President Museveni for his inspirational leadership. She told the summit of the genesis of COMESA from the time of the PTA noting that its trade has grown from US$3.1 billion in 2000 to US$18.4 billion in 2011. She emphasized the need to review the policies of the trade body.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and current Chairman of the East African Community (EAC) said COMESA needed to focus on infrastructure development, accessing credit and industrialization.

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Deselgan, stressed the need to prioritize the issue of the youth, employment and security in Africa and also to put in place infrastructure that would boost trade between COMESA member countries.

Later, President Banda of Malawi, as outgoing COMESA Chairperson, handed over the instruments to the incoming Chairman, President Museveni. In his acceptance speech, Mr Museveni congratulated Mrs. Banda for shepherding COMESA despite the loss of Professor Bingu wa Mutharika.

He also commended her for her leadership in Malawi. He also extended condolences to the people of Ethiopia for the loss of their Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. He, however, was glad to note that the people of Ethiopia had brought in one of the commanders who had worked closely with the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

Moving a vote of thanks the leader of the Swazi delegation, Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, expressed confidence that with President Museveni as the new Chairman of COMESA, the integration agenda would be on course. He expressed the need to have a lot of courage especially in addressing the issues of peace and security in the region.

He also extended warm felicitations from the King Muswati the 3rd and the Queen of Swaziland to President Museveni, the government and to the people of Uganda.

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