19 January 2022 03:18 PM


The 21st COMESA Heads of State and Government Summit

Tuesday، 23 November 2021 - 12:00 AM

The new administrative capital of Egypt will host on November 23, 2021 the activities of the 21st Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), three years after the last summit was held in Lusaka, Zambia in July 2018.

The event will witness in-person and virtual participation of representatives of the 21 member countries and heads of African economic blocs; in addition to COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe.

The summit will be held under theme “Building Resilience Through Strategic Digital Economic Integration,” the summit aims to rally the 21 member states on how to safeguard and advance the COMESA regional integration agenda using digital platforms to facilitate doing business and enhance their resilience to face the economic repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, will take over the chair of the COMESA from the outgoing chair, the President of Madagascar. He will also launch the COMESA Medium-Term Strategic Plan (MTSP) 2021- 2025.

The Egyptian government is looking forward to making the most of Egypt’s second presidency of COMESA, 20 years later since the last time it assumed the chair of the Authority in 2001, in further deepening cooperation among member states in many fields, especially in light of the State's strategy for bringing about economic integration in Africa and overcoming obstacles that might hinder free trade between COMESA member states.

Also, Egypt represents a key economic pillar in the COMESA, where it contributed the lion's share of intra-COMESA trade in 2020, with a total of $2.7 billion, where Egypt's exports to COMESA reached $2 billion in 2020; while imports from COMESA amounted to $700 million.

The most important Egyptian exports to COMESA countries include plastics, salt, sulfur, lime, cement, ceramic products, machinery and electrical appliances, mill products, paper, sugar, soap, essential oils and perfumes.

A comprehensive national vision for Egypt's presidency of the COMESA

Minister of Trade and Industry Nevine Gamea pointed out that the ministry, Gamea noted, has developed a comprehensive vision for Egypt’s presidency of the COMESA, aiming at deepening economic integration between Egypt and member countries, to enhance the Egyptian presence in Africa in general and COMESA in particular.

Egypt’s one-year presidency of COMESA will focus on creating a business-friendly environment for the Egyptian business community to support its economic integration with COMESA countries; linking the business community within the COMESA region to support economic integration and increase the movement of intra-regional trade and investments; opening up opportunities for cooperation in priority sectors; in addition to sharing Egypt’s know-how in economic sectors with competitive advantage such as transportation, energy, communications and health with member states.

The ministry has also discussed a number of proposals with the authorities concerned to be implemented during Egypt’s presidency of COMESA. These include in the field of industry, promoting the ministry’s initiative to deepen industrial integration by defining the available resources in member states and linking regional value chains; and in the field of trade and customs, urging non-members to join the free trade zone and enjoy customs exemption on their imports of COMESA origin, as well as establishing a trade policy review mechanism.

Among other proposals are sharing Egypt’s expertise with member states in the field of SMEs and trade in services; as for infrastructure, cooperating with the COMESA secretariat and members in finding financing sources for transport corridors and hubs, especially for the Lake Victoria-Mediterranean Sea linking project; and in agriculture, encouraging agricultural integration initiatives among the COMESA countries and including the private sector in the implementation of agricultural development projects.

In the health sector, it is proposed to establish a committee of COMESA health ministers with the aim of formulating an urgent plan to address the challenges posed by the pandemic in member countries; and in and the fields of tourism and culture, to enhance the role of the COMESA Committee on Tourism and Wildlife.

Within the COMESA’s appreciation of the role played by the media, heads of state will announce winners of the COMESA Media Awards, for their excellent reporting on regional integration initiatives and efforts to raise the public’s awareness.

Eight media professionals have won the COMESA media awards over the past three years, including two from Egypt. Innovators who, with the help of science and technology, have come up with solutions to contemporary challenges and new products that could deepen regional integration will also be honored.

What is COMESA?

COMESA is the Common Market Agreement for Eastern and Southern Africa. It is one of the main pillars of the African Economic Community that was approved at the Abuja Summit in 1991.  The goal of establishing the grouping is to abolish all trade restrictions among the member states of the grouping in preparation for the establishment of an economic unit for the region.

The COMESA was established in December 1994 to succeed the Preferential Trade Area, which began in 1981. The headquarters of the COMESA Secretariatis based in Lusaka, Zambia.

COMESA members include: Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Uganda, Swaziland, Zambia, Libya, Seychelles and Zimbabwe.

COMESA average economic growth rate hit 5.6% in 2019 but fell significantly during 2020 due to the fallout of the pandemic on most member countries, noting that the International Monetary Fund forecasts a rebound in the COMESA economic growth to 4.3% this year and 6% in 2022, thanks to a worldwide economic recovery driven by vaccination efforts against the Covid-19 virus and a pickup in global demand.

Egypt signed to join the COMESA Agreement on June 29, 1998. Customs exemptions were applied by the rest of the member states as of February 17, 1999 based on the principle of reciprocity, and for goods accompanied by a certificate of origin approved by the concerned authorities in each country. Since its accession to the assembly, Egypt has played an active and pivotal role in activating and developing the mechanisms of COMESA's work, and in participating in the activities and programs of the grouping. Egypt also hosts the headquarters of the regional investment agency of COMESA at the headquarters of the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones.

Believing in the importance of establishing a free trade area among the COMESA countries as a beginning to the establishment of the common market, Egypt hastened to join the COMESA Free Trade Area, which was announced at the Lusaka Summit in 2000. The volume of trade exchange between the countries that joined the COMESA Free Trade Area amounted to about 2.6 billion dollars in 2004 compared to about 2.1 billion dollars in 2003. While trade exchange among all member states of the assembly increased to 5.6 billion dollars in 2005 compared to about 4.5 billion dollars in 2002, and then increased to 6.3 billion dollars in 2006, representing petroleum, tea and sugar exports. Barley and coffee are the most important commodities exchanged between member states.

Egypt’s role is not limited to participating in meetings, but rather prepares and presents many seminars, technical studies, and grants for trainees to the COMESA countries, especially in the fields of roads, communications and transportation, infrastructure, government procurement and others. This is in light of its conclusion of the Egyptian-European Partnership Agreement.

Egypt holds three positions in the COMESA secretariat, the most important of which is the position of Assistant Secretary General of the COMESA.

Egypt is also seeking to compete for a number of important positions that were recently opened to the candidates of member states, the most important of which is the position of Director of the Trade Department.

The Activities of the 21st session of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Summit

The 21st session of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Summit kicked off on Tuesday morning, November 23, 2021 at the New Administrative Capital, with the attendance of the heads of state and government of the bloc's 21 members, representing the first qualitative summit of COMESA held in the New Administrative Capital.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi escorted the leaders and heads of member states and governments to the headquarters of the meeting hall in the New Administrative Capital, and they took a souvenir photo before entering the hall to attend the summit.

Upon the arrival of the President and the leaders of the countries, the music played the national anthems of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Madagascar.

At the outset of his speech, the President welcomed President Andrés Rajoelina, President of the Republic of Madagascar, Heads of State and Government of COMESA, Mrs. Chileshe Kapwepwe, COMESA Secretary General, and Heads and Representatives of regional and international organizations saying: “It gives me pleasure to welcome you today at the 21st COMESA Summit, which Egypt is honored to host.”

President El-Sisi added: “I would have liked to receive you all here today, but developments pertinent to the coronavirus pandemic and related precautionary measures prevented this from happening. This prompted us to set a mechanism to convene the summit with a limited participation, hoping that when the next summit takes place, God will have saved us from this pandemic.”

The President expressed his sincerest gratitude to His Excellency President Andry Rajoelina, the President of the Republic of Madagascar, for his genuine efforts during his country’s chairmanship of the COMESA and for the subsequent concrete achievements realized to strengthen regional economic integration.

His Excellency, also, asserted that he is looking forward to working together with the Heads of State and Government of COMESA to boost regional economic integration, thanking the COMESA Secretariat for its persistent keenness to follow-up on the implementation of the treaty to establish the common market. This is in addition to holding periodic meetings and working in exceptional circumstances due to the challenges imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

André Rajoelina, President of Madagascar and President of the 20th Summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African Countries (COMESA), announced the new bureau body, where Egypt will be the president of the coming session while Libya will be the Vice-President, and the Republic of Madagascar the General Rapporteur.

In his speech during the opening session of the summit, the President of Madagascar said that the previous summit met 3 years ago, pointing out that the impact of the coronavirus resulted in virtual meetings and digital trade as it affected global and African economies, adding:  "Today we meet with great pleasure in this new beautiful city in Egypt (the New Administrative Capital), under the presidency of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

He, also, congratulated President Abdel Fattah El Sisi over the New Administrative Capital, pointing out that president Sisi is building Egypt, expressing at the same time his great happiness to participate in this summit.

Afterwards, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi received the presidency of COMESA from the president of Madagascar.

Whereas, the President of the Republic of Madagascar handed the annual report of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African Countries (COMESA) to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who holds the current presidency of the summit.

After Egypt assumed the presidency of COMESA, President El-Sisi delivered a speech in which he stressed the following:

First: Achieving Regional Economic Integration and Eliminating Customs Obstacles
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi highlighted that Egypt firmly believes in the importance of regional and continental integration and constantly seeks to develop intra-trade within this integration, as Egypt has been keen since joining the COMESA to apply customs exemptions, agreed upon within the framework of the free trade area according to the principle of reciprocity. In this respect, Egypt seeks to coordinate with the member states and the Secretariat General to work on eliminating any obstacles that prevent the member states from providing the necessary exemptions.

Second: Industrial Integration
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi noted that our cooperation to increase intra-trade requires increasing productivity and cooperation in the various manufacturing sectors and benefiting from the available resources in the region’s countries and their competiveness in increasing industrial production, particularly in light of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, which affected regional and international supply chains. Consequently, Egypt prepared the regional industrial integration initiative, in line with the COMESA Industrialization Strategy 2017-2026 and Africa Development Agenda 2063, with the aim of sharing it with the member states and the Secretariat General to put an implementation plan to achieve industrial integration and increase productivity, under the label "Made in COMESA”.

His Excellency, also, called on the leaders of the member states and the Secretariat General to capitalize on this initiative and put an implementation plan in the short and long terms to assist the industrial sector and the business community in the COMESA.

Third: Integration in Infrastructure Sectors
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi asserted that Egypt is keen on strengthening cooperation with member states as well as the General Secretariat and its institutions so as to advance economic integration in the infrastructure sectors, particularly transport, energy, communications and IT. He added that Egypt has achieved a significant leap in this regard in the past period, aiming to work diligently with member states and the General Secretariat to encourage land connectivity projects among the continents countries, primarily the Cairo-Cape Town Road project, which passes through most COMESA countries.

Fourth: Encouraging the Flow of Investments in the Region
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi noted that the lack of data for investment opportunities constitutes an obstacle, hampering the development of investments in the region. Therefore, Egypt will work on supporting and encouraging the General Secretariat to cooperate with member states to prepare a list of clear investment opportunities to present it to the business community and funding institutions so as to work on its implementation, thus contributing to increasing economic growth rates, and generating more jobs for the bloc’s citizens.

Fifth: Integration in the Health Sector
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi stressed that a clear plan must be developed to promote regional integration in the Health Sector. This is in addition to aligning national policies to ensure facilitating the access of medical and pharmaceutical products among member states, as well as increasing the awareness of the bloc’s citizens to benefit from the coronavirus vaccines to prevent its spread in COMESA countries.

Sixth: Spurring the Business Community in the Common Market
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi confirmed that Egypt is placing huge interest on removing any impediments facing businesses in the bloc and believes that the integration of businesses is an urgent need to accelerate the pace of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, noting that in order achieve this, Egypt will work during its bloc’s chairmanship on encouraging all initiatives that contribute to creating a conducive business environment, particularly initiatives targeting digital transformation and financial inclusion to serve small- and medium-sized companies. This is in addition to all initiatives aimed at encouraging the participation of women and young entrepreneurs in the process of economic integration and intra-investment of the private sector in the various production sectors.

The COMESA Summit Closing Session

In his closing speech at the 21st Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) summit, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said: “The launch of the COMESA strategy reflects a true will and a firm determination of COMESA member states to realize regional economic integration in the area, by adopting the best practices and policies to free trade among our countries, upgrade the infrastructure, achieve industrial development, and work toward attracting more investments to the region. This summit came up with tangible results represented in the launch of the COMESA medium-term Strategy 2021-2025, which came as evidence of a clear and thoughtful vision by all member states to enhance joint cooperation in all fields.”

The President added,” Allow me to extend to you all my sincerest gratitude and appreciation for your efforts and for the fruitful and constructive discussions you held today to finalize our agenda. Also, allow me to express my gratitude to all of you; COMESA Secretary General, all members of the General Secretariat and everyone who contributed to the preparation and organization of our summit today for the great efforts exerted to make the summit a success, despite the current formidable challenges imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.”

He added “Therefore, it has become imperative that we take the necessary measures that will enable us to fully apply the free trade agreement among COMESA countries in all member states. This is the goal which, by its achievement, will turn intra-trade into a major drive that will boost production rates and enhance production and industrial integration among member states. This will reflect positively on the coveted economic and social development and ensure prosperity and decent life for our peoples.”

President El-Sisi noted that: "Realizing the highest levels of regional economic integration in the COMESA region compels us all to make room for all the key players who directly participate in achieving economic development in the member states. On top of which is the private sector and business community, due to their vital and efficient role in enhancing intra COMESA trade. Therefore, strengthening communication with the private sector and business community in the COMESA countries, knowing their aspirations and eliminating all obstacles that they face are key goals that must be achieved and integral to the success of applying regional economic integration policies, adopted within the COMESA region.”

In this context, the President lauded efforts exerted by the COMESA Business Council and its constant keenness to search for the available and possible opportunities to enhance engagement among the business sectors in member states.

His Excellency said: “Stemming from the importance of the COMESA to Egypt’s national economy and the responsibility we shoulder to contribute to realizing the COMESA goals during the year of our presidency of the community, and in light of the endeavors and goals presented to you-that we hope to achieve in a number of proposed fields for further development during this year- I call on all of you to participate in implementing this vision and assist in achieving these endeavors and goals in a way that serves the interests and goals of the COMESA community and peoples of the member states.”

He continued saying: “Before concluding, we cannot forget congratulating the judge of the COMESA Court of Justice on assuming her post, the new commissioners at the COMESA Competition Commission and the members of the COMESA Committee of Elders. We ask God to grant them success in their new duties, for the benefit of the peoples of the member states.”

He, also, said: “I would also like to congratulate the recipients of the creativity awards and the COMESA media awards, noting their role as well as the role of various media in serving the community’s goals for economic integration.”

The President concluded his speech saying: “At the end of this fruitful day, I would like to seize the opportunity before the conclusion of the summit to invite you all to participate in the implementation of Egypt’s vision to realize the COMESA endeavors and goals in a manner that serves the interests of its peoples. We also confirm Egypt’s full support and continued assistance to all the African peoples in their pursuit towards achieving continental and regional economic integration. We have confidence in the strength and determination of the continent’s peoples to lead their countries towards achieving peace, security, stability and justice, being the pillars for realizing economic development.”

Finally, President El-Sisi announced the closing of the 21st COMESA summit saying: “I pray to God to assist us in fulfilling the aspirations of our peoples.”

President Sisi's meetings on the sidelines of COMESA Summit

President El-Sisi meets with Madagascar's President on the Sidelines of COMESA Summit
President El-Sisi meets with COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe
President El-Sisi meets with Head of Libya’s Presidential Council Mohamed al-Menfi

The most important outcomes of the 21st COMESA Summit

- President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi received Egypt's presidency of the COMESA from the President of Madagascar.

- President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi launched of the COMESA medium-term strategy 2021-2025.

- Reviewing a number of important reports on priority issues concerning economic integration and the situation of the Corona pandemic in the region.

- Announcing the winners of the Media Excellence and Innovation Awards.

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