AfDB signs two trade-related programs worth $8.5 million with COMESA
A delegation from the African Development Bank led by Moono Mupotola, Division Manager, Regional Integration and Trade (ONRI), and Freddie Kwesiga, Resident Representative in Zambia, and comprised of Zambia Country Office, ONRI and Southern Africa Regional Resource Centre officials participated in the inauguration of two Bank-financed trade-related projects, namely: the Tripartite Capacity Building Programme (TCBP) and the COMESA Trading for Peace Project.
Both projects were developed by the Bank and the three regional economic communities (RECs): East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
The Tripartite Capacity Building Program is a $7.5-million grant to the Tripartite (EAC-COMESA-SADC) which aims to enhance the capacity of the RECs to address trade-related constraints. The program will facilitate the negotiations process for the establishment of a Tripartite Free Trade Area, scale up industrial research and help in the identification and the removal of non-tariff barriers and other bottlenecks that prevent the Tripartite region from being borderless.
The second project which was signed was a $963,000 grant to COMESA to support the implementation of its Trading for Peace Programme (TfP). The TfP is the first formal COMESA program to address post-conflict reconstruction and development. Its objective is to consolidate peace in post-conflict areas, especially the Great Lakes Region by encouraging interaction and building trust between communities through the facilitation and formalization of cross-border trade. The project will increase access to information in various border areas through the establishment of Trade Information Desks and the provision of targeted trade-related trainings. The TfP is financed through the recently launched Africa Trade Fund (AfTra). AfTra is a Bank-hosted, trade-related technical assistance facility with the objective to enhance the trade performance of African countries. Canada provided the seed capital to launch the AfTra.
In his remarks, Kwesiga highlighted the progress made in trade and regional integration in COMESA and the Tripartite, the challenges that remained and how the recently approved projects would help in addressing many of those challenges. He noted that he was confident that the TCBP would accelerate the consolidation of the Tripartite region into a single economic space and that the TfP Project would result in a significant reduction in informal activity, trade-related complaints and insecurity while generating increases in cross-border trade volumes.
Kumar Gupta, Head of Office and Representative of the High Commission of Canada, underscored the long-standing relationship of the Government of Canada, the Bank and COMESA. He noted that Canada was particularly keen to scale up its Aid for Trade (AfT) programs and that the African Development Bank, through the Africa Trade Fund, provided an excellent vehicle for the channeling of AfT resources. He welcomed both projects, noting that they would help alleviate many of the bottlenecks that traders face in the COMESA and wider Tripartite region.
For his part, Sindiso Ngwenya, Secretary General of COMESA, saluted the Bank for its consistent focus on regional infrastructure, stating that without regional infrastructure connectivity, deep African integration would never be achieved. He noted that the Tripartite was a significant step in the realization of the African Union’s continental objectives, particularly the Continental Free Trade Area and that COMESA was honoured to have been designated by the RECs and the Bank as the executing agency for the program. He thanked the African Development Bank and the High Commission of Canada for the financing provided to the TfP, stressing that the program had already received the praise of numerous donors for its ability to show results on the ground and positively impact the lives of thousands of formal and informal cross-border traders.
In conclusion, both COMESA and the Bank noted that conceptualizing a project and launching it only represented 10 per cent of the work required. The remaining 90 per cent is in the quality of implementation. They reassured the meeting of the continued support and commitment of their respective institutions during the implementation phase so as to ensure that the projects are implemented in a timely and efficient manner and the expected benefits are attained.