COMESA: Significant progress has been made in regional integration

COMESA Significant progress has been made in regional integration, one year after the launch of the Customs Union. This was reported by the COMESA Secretary General,  Mr Sindiso Ngwenya  at the opening of the twenty eighth meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee meeting in Ezulwini Swaziland. The theme of the 2010 COMESA Policy Organs and Heads of State Summit was “Harnessing Science and Technology for Development”.

Mr Ngwenya explained that key studies have been conducted on duty exemptions, free circulation of goods, introduction of a five percent tariff band into the CET among others. On sensitive products, eleven COMESA countries have submitted their lists of sensitive products.

And work has progressed towards establishing the Tripartite Free Trade Area among COMESA, SADC and the EAC. The three Secretariats have produced a draft for the Agreement Established the Tripartite Free Trade Area which includes 14 Annexes that deal with specific subject matters such as Rules of Origin, Intellectual Property Rights, and dispute settlement.

“It is important that the Tripartite process should be given maximum support as it is the mode of integration for the future that would address the practical reality of intersecting membership in our region,” Mr Ngwenya said.
Mr Sindiso Ngwenya futher challenged the region to properly harness and utilize various platforms in science and technology such as ICTs for the people to benefit from the multitude of opportunities for development offered by science and technology.

“Many studies have been done showing that science and technology if properly harnessed offers multitudes of opportunities for development in areas of vital importance for developing countries like those in the region. The question we need to ask ourselves is: as a region, have we done enough to utilize science and technology for development,”? he asked.
He pointed out that science, technology and innovation hold the promise to achieving the Millennium development Goals such as those related to the reduction of poverty and hunger, and promoting public health through access to medicine, promoting universal education, and reducing maternal mortality, as science and technology including ICT, is driving sustainable growth and development.

The COMESA Treaty obliges the region to cooperate and promote science and technology in the region. However, serious concrete decisions and commitments need to be put in place for this to happen. Mr Ngwenya added that an overall robust innovation friendly policy framework needs to be introduced.

This framework should comprise a clear, stable and well designed macro economic framework; enhanced human capital for innovation by empowering people to innovate and create; developing an effective and efficient Intellectual property rights regime as a critical enabling research and development through cooperation and collaboration within and outside the region. Emphasis should be placed on fostering research and development through cooperation and collaboration within and outside the region.

“In this regard, I am pleased to announce that your Secretariat has continued to proactively implement activities under the COMESA policy on Intellectual property and Cultural Industries,”

The COMESA Secretary General said the need for financing the innovation process cannot be over-emphasized as financing will be necessary to encourage the development and utilization of science and technology. Value addition and fostering education and skills developed should be promoted in the region.

Harnessing Science, Technology and innovation for development requires political leadership, policy coherence and policy coordination. It needs to be integrated fully into national economic policies in ways  that cut across the priorities of different Ministries.

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