Egypt’s COMESA Presidency aims for regional integration and the use of AfCFTA: Sisi – Foreign Affairs – Egypt

The President made his remarks while chairing the 21st COMESA Heads of State and Government Summit, which kicked off today in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital (NAC).

El-Sisi stressed the need to introduce customs exemptions as agreed under the AfCFTA.

He highlighted his proposal to set up a mechanism for periodic review of member states’ trade policies in order to ensure the effective implementation of customs privileges.

Earlier in the summit’s opening session, President El-Sisi succeeded Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina as COMESA President.

COMESA was founded in December 1994 – replacing the preferential trade zone that had existed since 1981 – as an organization of independent and free sovereign states that agreed to cooperate in the development of their natural and human resources for the benefit of all their peoples.

According to COMESA, the summit is organized under the theme: “Building resilience through strategic digital economic integration” and “aims to rally the 21 member states on how to safeguard and advance the regional integration agenda of COMESA using digital platforms to make it easier to do business and build resilience to deal with the economic repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic. “

Egypt has assumed the presidency of the summit for the first time since 2001.

Zambia hosted the last COMESA summit in Lusaka in 2018.

“Egypt will seek to follow up on this mechanism in cooperation with the COMESA General Secretariat and member states,” El-Sisi said.

He added that Egypt will endeavor to promote continental integration and highlight the progress made in the framework of regional integration of COMESA, East African Community and Development Community. from southern Africa.

Egypt will also work to encourage countries that have signed the AfCFTA agreement to start implementing its terms, he said.

The AfCFTA, which was signed in March 2018 in Rwanda to become the world’s largest free trade area, entered into force on January 1, 2021. The AfCFTA, which created a market of 1.2 billion people, is the eighth largest economic bloc in the world. . It has a combined GDP of $ 3 trillion that is expected to more than double by 2050, according to the African Union (AU).

Thirty-nine states out of the 55 AU members have ratified the AfCFTA agreement with the aim of accelerating intra-African trade and strengthening Africa’s trade position in the global market by strengthening the common voice and the continent’s political space in global trade negotiations.

El-Sisi stressed the need to intensify cooperation in the various manufacturing sectors and to benefit from the resources available to the countries of the region, especially in light of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

In September, El-Sisi called during his speech at the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for debt relief for developing countries, especially African and middle-income states, for the in light of the economic impact of the pandemic.

“The African continent has become the most affected by the coronavirus at a time when its people are facing other challenges which are no less serious than the pandemic,” El-Sisi said.

During his speech on Tuesday, El-Sisi said the pandemic had negatively affected the flow of regional and international supply chains.

He stressed that these channels will be reshaped according to the ability of national economies to recover.

The availability of competitive capacities in African countries will also play a role in reshaping regional and international supply chains, El-Sisi added.

He urged COMESA member states to take advantage of the current conditions to deepen industrial cooperation.

El-Sisi said that Egypt has prepared a regional industrial integration initiative with the aim of participating with member states and the general secretariat in the development of an executive plan to achieve this integration and increase productivity under the slogan “Made in COMESA”.

The Egyptian initiative is in line with COMESA’s 2017-2026 industrial strategy and Africa’s development program 2063, said the Egyptian president.

The initiative aims to study the resources available to countries in the bloc and determine the relative advantages they have in order to integrate the targeted industrial sectors into regional and international value chains.

In addition, El-Sisi called on COMESA member states and the general secretariat to take advantage of the Egyptian initiative and develop a short and long term executive plan to support the industrial sector and the business community of COMESA.

Integration of infrastructure, investment promotion

Egypt will also work to accelerate economic integration in the infrastructure sectors, especially transport, energy, communications and information technology, El-Sisi said.

He underlined Egypt’s willingness to cooperate with all COMESA member states in all these sectors in light of the leap forward Egypt has made in this regard in recent years.

The Egyptian president also underlined the importance of the integration of infrastructure between the countries of the bloc to ensure the promotion of intra-regional trade and the circulation of goods, raw materials and elements of production.

Egypt is encouraging land link projects between African countries, including the Cairo-Cape Town project which should cross most of the COMESA countries, he added.

The country is also seeking to finalize a feasibility study to establish a naval route connecting Lake Victoria and the Mediterranean through the Nile, El-Sisi said.

“This is one of the ambitious projects that will facilitate the flow of trade and the movement of people between countries in the region,” he said.

Launched in 2013, the Naval Liaison Project is one of the regional projects sponsored by the Presidential Infrastructure Development Initiative of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

Egypt is leading this project with the participation of all Nile Basin countries including Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

The enterprise includes a shipping route, a road, a railroad, an electrical connection and an information cable to achieve the overall development of the countries of the Nile basin.

El-Sisi said the lack of data needed for investment opportunities hampers the promotion of regional investment.

He noted that Egypt will encourage the general secretariat of the group to cooperate with member states to prepare a list of clear investment opportunities to present to the business community and financial institutions.

Such a measure will help increase economic growth rates and create more employment opportunities for the citizens of the region, he said.

Health care integration

The Egyptian president called for strengthening the integration of the health sectors of COMESA member states, especially in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

He called for an urgent study and the development of a clear plan to ensure easy access to medical and pharmaceutical products among member states.

In addition, El-Sisi called for sensitizing African citizens to benefit from vaccines in order to curb the spread of the pandemic in the region.

In his speech to the 76th session of the UNGA, El-Sisi stressed that Egypt was keen to localize the manufacture of vaccines against the coronavirus “not only to meet the needs of its citizens, but also to export doses to the African continent “.

“The current circumstances have only exacerbated a reality that has been perpetuated for decades: insufficient regional and international cooperation,” El-Sisi told the UN body, as he called for an extension of the scope of international support to the developing world to cover middle-income countries. countries.

Improve the business environment

The president reaffirmed on Tuesday that Egypt was eager to overcome any obstacles to the movement of businesses in the bloc, given his belief that business integration is an urgent necessity to accelerate the pace of recovery from the pandemic.

“The business world is the main actor and the most important beneficiary of the COMESA Common Market Treaty,” he said.

Egypt will strive during its COMESA Chairmanship to stimulate all initiatives that help facilitate the business environment, especially digital transformation and financial inclusion initiatives.

The country will also encourage the movement of intra-private sector investments in different sectors, he added.

Egypt and COMESA

According to a report released Tuesday by the Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), Egyptian exports to COMESA countries increased by 32.4% in 2021, registering $ 2.3 billion over the years. first nine months of the year, compared to $ 1.7 billion. registered during the same period in 2020.

Imports to Egypt from COMESA member states amounted to $ 901 million in the first nine months of 2021, an increase of 25% from $ 721 million during the same period in 2020.

In addition, trade between Egypt and the COMESA countries reached $ 3.1 billion in the first nine months of 2021, a notable increase from the $ 2.4 billion recorded in the same year. period in 2020.

Egypt will increase the engagement of the Egyptian business community with COMESA member states to benefit from the advantages offered by the economic bloc and also expand trade, the president noted.

COMESA is a major market place for domestic and foreign trade.

It is made up of 21 member states with a population of over 583 million and a combined GDP of $ 805 billion.

Its contribution to global merchandise export / import trade is estimated at $ 324 billion.

COMESA covers nearly two-thirds of the African continent with an area of ​​12 million square kilometers.

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