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COMESA industrial strategy to address disparities in regional economic growth

The  Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region has experienced a robust annual real GDP growth of close  to 6.5 percent but this has not led to economic transformation of the region.

According to Principal Secretary in charge of Industry in Kenya, Ms. Betty Maina, this disparity is as a result of
preoccupation with low value-added products and trading in primary products and natural resources.

Addressing delegates at the joint opening of COMESA Technical Meetings on industry on one hand and infrastructure  (transport, ICT and energy) on the other in Nairobi on Tuesday, Maina said the affected products are mainly those with few  forward and backward linkages to the rest of the economy.

The  PS  cited the production of hydrocarbon and minerals, both capital and technology intensive as some of those that  contribute to jobless growth in the region.

“Despite  regional integration being of special importance in Africa, COMESA Member States still trades over 90 per cent  with other parts of the world due to lack of industrial diversification and products` complementarity among themselves,” she said.

Consequently, she added  that the low level of intra-COMESA trade, which has not broken the 10 percent threshold of  total  exports over the years, is a reflection of a low level of industrialization.

“This  limits  the  level  of  intra and inter industry trade and the extent of quality job creation needed to reduce poverty,”  Maina  said.

The  COMESA  technical meetings on industry and joint committee meetings on infrastructure are concurrently taking  place in  Nairobi for three days.

The  implementation of the COMESA Industrial Strategy, which was adopted by the Ministers of Industry in 2015, is expected  to provide the pathway towards addressing the growth gaps that exist on the supply side such as low value addition, low  employment rates and weak cross border trade volumes.

The  meeting  will  discuss the Draft Action Plan of the implementation on the COMESA Industrial Strategy and review  the  COMESA Regional Guidelines on the Local Content Policy and the two documents submitted to the Ministers of Industry.

The  11th Joint COMESA Technical Committee on Infrastructure will consider the progress made in the implementation of the infrastructure soft and physical projects in transport, ICT and energy sub-sectors.

Speaking at the same forum, the Assistant Secretary General of COMESA, Dr.KipyegoCheluget said energy costs in the region were a major impediment to the expansion of the manufacturing sector.

The total installed capacity for electric power in the 21 COMESA countries is about 90,800 megawatts compared to Brazil with over 150,000 megawatts.

“We are however beginning to see significant improvements in the generation capacity with the expected coming on-stream major power generation projects in Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ugandaand Zambia,” he said.

Cheluget  added that the construction of Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya inter connector and the Ethiopia-Kenya inter connector will facilitate power trade between the southern and the northern power pools.

The  PS  for  Trade  in  Kenya, Dr. Chris Kiptoo  said  the  joint hosting of meetings of experts in industry, transport, ICT  and  energy  was  a  good initiative for addressing interrelated issues that contribute to the growth of regional trade.

The  technical  meetings  will end today to pave way for ministerial meetings on industry and infrastructure who will consider the recommendations of the experts and make decisions on their implementation by Member States.

By   Wangari  Ndirangu

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