COMESA and Mauritius have agreed on the need to prioritize a regional-wide post-Covid-19 recovery plan to assist Member States get their economies back on their feet. In a meeting conducted virtually between COMESA Secretary General, Chileshe Kapwepwe and the Mauritius Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade Hon Nandcoomar BODHA, the two agreed on the need to focus resource mobilization efforts towards supporting the plan.
Minister BODHA, whose Ministry is in charge of coordination of COMESA programmes in Mauritius lauded COMESA Secretariat for cutting its budget by 10% and passing the benefit to the Member States. Hence, Member States will reduce their annual subscriptions to the regional economic bloc by the same percentage. He urged the organization to adopt a No-budget increase policy to help the Member States in their economic recovery efforts.
Secretary General said COMESA has actively engaged development partners including the African Development Bank, the European Union and the World Bank among others, to support Member States during the pandemic and after.
So far, she said, various support facilities have been secured including a $850,000 commitment from the AfDB to support the development of pharmaceutical products and creation of value chains for COMESA Member States. Further discussions are underway to upscale this project with additional resources and expand its scope.
COMESA is also conducting socio economic studies on the impact of the pandemic to Member States to support their recovery efforts. Further, it has set up a portal for exchange of information on essential goods that are available in the region. Ms. Kapwepwe said the platform will enable Member States to share information and connect buyers to suppliers thereby promoting and fostering regional intra-COMESA trade.
Other matters discussed included the implementation of the COMESA Free Trade Area Agreement and the importance to Member States avoiding introduction of any new trade barriers and resolution of the pending ones to boost regional trade and support post-Covid-19 economic recovery.
“What we need is regional approach for economic recovery, with a harmonized plan for all member States as this will enable us forge partnerships with the development partners as opposed to going alone,” the SG noted.
With regard to the ratification of the COMESA, EAC and SADC Free Trade Area, the Minister said Mauritius was looking forward to the conclusion of the negotiations on Rules of Origin and Market Access to ratify the Agreement. The Tripartite was launched in 2015 and has so been signed and ratified by eight countries, six short of the required threshold of 14.
“Negotiations have been lengthy as some of the products involved are sensitive,” the Minister noted. “It would be important to share the outcomes of bilateral negotiators with all parties regarding market access.”
The SG said lack of funding had also slowed down the tripartite negotiations and this situation also been exacerbated by COVID-19 pandemic.
The two also discussed preparation of the 2021 -2025 COMESA Medium Term Strategic Plan (MTSP) the ongoing which is currently underway. Minister Bodha said the development of the ocean economy, maritime security and climate change were the main priorities of the island States and should be placed top on the agenda of the next COMESA strategic plan.
Secretary General hailed Mauritius for setting the best example in the region in the management and containment of the Covid-19 pandemic. The country has flattened the curve and has no active Covid-19 cases.