Zambian Vice President Mutale Nalumango on Thursday urged member countries of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to emphasize value addition to raw materials to foster economic growth and reduce poverty.
In remarks delivered at the outset of the 44th Meeting of the COMESA Council of Ministers, Nalumango said that the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts in various parts of the world and climate change have negatively affected economies, and these factors require countries to refocus on key areas that contribute to development, productivity, and competitiveness.
“Prioritization should be based on value addition, diversification and embracing new technologies, all with due consideration to the protection of our environment,” she said.
While acknowledging the vast natural resources that the region is endowed with, the vice president expressed concern that the majority of people have remained poor and vulnerable to various economic shocks.
According to her, countries need to join hands and forge ahead with the regional integration agenda which offers opportunities to add value and enhance productivity as well as generate employment opportunities.
She further noted that it is important to leverage the opportunities offered under the COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite free trade area and the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“These, not only widen markets for our goods and services, but also strengthen value-addition and industrial growth and stimulate long-term investments in physical and soft infrastructure development,” she added.
Chileshe Kapwepwe, the COMESA secretary-general, said the regional bloc has continued to play an active role in the implementation of the tripartite free trade area program. She said industrial development has remained a core issue of the integration process but pointed out that inadequate infrastructure has remained one of the major constraints to economic growth and development.
“Inadequacy of infrastructure has resulted in inefficiency of ports, railways, costly road transport, limited access to electricity and water,” she said.