Violence against women threatens development after COVID-19 crisis: Elena Panova    FRA approves amendment to securitization bonds, sukuk regulations    Egypt chairs African Peace and Security Council session on women    12 digital gangs have targeted Egypt since beginning of pandemic: Kaspersky    Egypt, Finland discuss ways to enhance cooperation in education sector    Allergic conditions linked to lower COVID-19 infection risk    Marota Developments to debut new phase of Mastro Mall in New Capital    Speed Clinic targets EGP 2.8bn revenues from COVID-19 tests for travelers from Saudi Arabia, Libya    UFM's priorities align with Egypt's Vision 2030: Shoukry    Prominent Egyptian anchor calls on UK to designate "Muslim Brotherhood" a Terrorist entity    Hope Givers Foundation honours Egyptologist Ali Abu Dashish    Austrian Cultural Forum in Cairo to launch exhibition highlighting Arab-Austrian ties    Art D'Egypte concludes 4th contemporary art exhibition "Forever is Now" at Giza Plateau    Egypt's stocks end week in green as benchmark EWX 30 surges 0.69%    Egypt, Israel sign deal sign MoU to increase gas supplies, hydrogen transport    Mortada Mansour sets road map for Zamalek, after normalization committee depart    I seek to secure stable financial sources to build strong judo team: Motei Fakhr El-Din    Egyptian karate players dazzle world in UAE    Orascom Construction joins consortium to develop Egypt's first green hydrogen production facility    98 potential candidates run for Libyan presidency    'Lake Victoria – Mediterranean' navigation corridor awaits feasibility studies, funds: official    Egypt's trade with Nile basin countries climbs 26% y-o-y in 9 months    Egypt selected to host COP27 international climate conference in 2022    Number of British tourists to Egypt seen hitting 500,000 this winter – envoy    The unvaccinated prohibited from entry to Egypt state institutions starting December 1    Egypt, Greece ink deal for first subsea power link between Europe and Africa    SCOHRE sparks discussion on harm reduction, tobacco control    Egypt to receive first of six high-trains from Spain's Talgo in mid-November    Egypt's iron and steel exports jump 197% in 8 months    Ethiopia halts work at its embassy in Egypt for 'economic reasons'    It's a bit frustrating to draw at home: Real Madrid keeper after Villarreal game    Russia says it's in sync with US, China, Pakistan on Taliban    Shoukry reviews with Guterres Egypt's efforts to achieve SDGs, promote human rights    Sudan says countries must cooperate on vaccines    Johnson & Johnson: Second shot boosts antibodies and protection against COVID-19    Egypt to tax bloggers, YouTubers    Egypt's FM asserts importance of stability in Libya, holding elections as scheduled    Brazil calls up 8 EPL players for World Cup qualifying    We mustn't lose touch: Muller after Bayern win in Bundesliga    Egypt records 36 new deaths from Covid-19, highest since mid June    Egypt sells $3 bln US-dollar dominated eurobonds    Sisi calls on House, Senate to commence second legislative sessions on 3, 5 October    Gamal Hanafy's ceramic exhibition at Gezira Arts Centre is a must go    Italian Institute Director Davide Scalmani presents activities of the Cairo Institute for ITALIANA.IT platform    Qa'a play showing at Lycee El Horreya Theatre, Alexandria is a must go    APO Group enters new exclusive agreement with Getty Images on African press releases and images    On International Museum Day, Egypt opens two new museums at Cairo Airport    Old Cairo's Al-Fustat will be revamped on Egyptian President's directives    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

Aligning African ranks
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 24 - 05 - 2001

Cairo takes the helm at COMESA with fresh ideas,writes Nevine Khalil
Nine heads of state converged on Cairo to attend the 20-nation Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) summit which opened on Tuesday. At the opening ceremony, Mauritius handed Egypt the presidency of the group in its sixth session.
In his opening address, President Hosni Mubarak said that during his presidency, Egypt is proposing three initiatives to propel the African economic bloc forward: enlarging the membership of the Free Trade Area (FTA) agreement to include all COMESA members, not just the current nine; thoroughly preparing for the second stage of integration through the establishment of COMESA's Customs Union by the year 2004; and working to promote member states as attractive foreign investment destinations.
"I promise you that Egypt will exert every effort to carry out its responsibilities and dedicate all its energies to achieve more progress in economic integration," Mubarak told his audience attending the two-day summit.
COMESA groups Angola, Burundi, the Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, the Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Tanzania pulled out of the group last year.
Mubarak noted that "an atmosphere of regional security and stability attracts more investments. Therefore, COMESA plays a pivotal role," in cooperation with the Organisation of African Unity's (OAU) conflict resolution mechanism, "to push forward joint efforts to settle conflicts by peaceful means."
COMESA heads of delegation pose for a commemorative photograph at the end of the opening session on Tuesday
COMESA is currently debating whether to merge with the 14-nation South African Development Community (SADC) which includes a number of COMESA members as well as South Africa and Botswana. SADC's secretary-general was at the summit to discuss the possibility of linking both groups.
Mubarak said that COMESA's economic integration efforts would be futile if they were carried out "in isolation from other African regional economic groupings." He counseled coordinated work with SADC, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic Central African States (ECAS), the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU). The president added that cooperation with international economic organisations and other regional groups worldwide "will remain a policy that should be adhered to and properly utilised."
Since its entry into COMESA in 1999, Egypt's exports to member states reached nearly $5 billion in 2001. And the opportunities are boundless in a group which is home to 370 million people and a combined GDP of some $153 billion. Egypt is optimistic about the Free Trade Area (FTA) which was finalised in October 2000, and hopes that a similar effort and commitment will be made to create a customs union among member states by the year 2004. This African bloc also hopes to establish a single currency and central bank by 2025.
On the eve of the summit, African ministers of economy and businessmen concluded an economic forum to discuss prospects for the COMESA FTA and investment opportunities within the group.
Participants took part in three workshops discussing the relationship between the public and private sectors, infrastructure, services and communications, and industry in light of the FTA.
In recognition of the vital role played by the private sector in development, COMESA created the umbrella Business Council in 1998, allowing the private sector in member states to enhance trade and investment opportunities. The council also advises member governments on policies to ease trade and investment restrictions.
Shafiq Gabr, chairman of the COMESA Business Council, told Mona El-Fiqi that much work is yet to be done, despite progress in creating incentives and benefits for the business communities within COMESA. "Most COMESA countries were either inward-looking or tied to countries outside the African continent," Gabr said. "Now, as trade barriers are lifted between COMESA countries, there is a need for greater recognition and removal of any [protectionist] fears" among them.
Gabr said that when Egypt joined COMESA, some African countries were concerned that the size of Egypt's economy would threaten local businesses, "but they have been proven wrong." In the six months since the FTA was signed, trade between Egypt and Kenya has increased significantly in both directions. "It is a win-win situation and not a zero-sum game where one country wins at the expense of the other," Gabr added.
COMESA gave Egypt an opportunity to be viewed as not only a gateway to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries but as a window on Africa. In addition, Egyptian businesses can invest and trade with African countries and export to Egypt and other world markets.
However, Gabr listed a number of problems facing investors when doing business in Africa. These include the lack of a business database, red tape, uncoordinated trade procedures, a fragile infrastructure and a disjointed investment legal structure.
Gabr urged determination and commitment. "It is the responsibility of Egyptian businessmen to advance. We should have the courage and leadership to continue to develop COMESA's vision. I think that the [FTA] experience will speak for itself in two or three years." COMESA inaugurated a special trade court earlier this year to arbitrate differences over implementing the FTA.
Globalisation presents numerous opportunities and challenges for COMESA countries individually, but if they unite their resources and economic potential, COMESA can become "an extremely attractive economic bloc for investment" in and out of Africa, said Gabr. "The governments and the private sector must work together to reap the benefits of globalisation and to reduce the challenges," he added.
In his address, Mubarak recognised the work of the council, saying that its role was vital for "integration of businessmen" within COMESA.
Recommend this page
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved
Send a letter to the Editor

Clic here to read the story from its source.