JB seeks COMESA support for Malawi economic growth

President Joyce Banda on Friday told COMESA Heads of State Summit being held in Kampala, Uganda, that her government has set a target that in the next five years, Malawi should make it into the top 100 countries to do business in, according to the World Bank Index.

“I hope my fellow COMESA member states who are already within the top 100 will be able to support us with advice in this endeavor,” said Banda.

President Banda, who has since handed over the COMESA chairmanship to Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, said reforming regulations to make it easier to do business will be of particular benefit to small, medium and micro businesses in Malawi, who do not have the resources to deal with complicated bureaucracy.

“This brings me to the theme of this year’s summit: ‘Enhancing Intra-COMESA Trade through Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development’. I think we can all agree on the importance of this theme – small businesses are the back bone of our economies. No country can hope to achieve sustainable economic growth without expanding and diversifying trade with small businesses,” she noted.

President Banda with Comesa Heads of State in Kampala

The Malawi Head of State further observed that a vibrant small and medium enterprises sector can become a catalyst for accelerated economic development for all COMESA Member States.

“In Malawi, we have around three quarters of a million small business owners who generate around US$2 billion for our economy and creating employment for just over a million people.

“What is more interesting is that Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises provide economic opportunities for our young people in Malawi, with the average age of small business owners at 31 years,” she explained.

The President said in 2012 the COMESA Secretariat, with funding from the European Union, launched a cluster project on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises focused on three sub sectors of agro processing, with an initial focus on Cassava; garments and textiles; and leather at footwear.

“The programme will focus on the technical and managerial upgrading of capacities in these sectors. Another achievement during 2012 that it gives me pleasure to report to you is the development of The COMESA Electronic Market Exchange System, an electronic trading platform that will different market players together in real time,” said the Head of State, adding that the summit in Uganda would also see the launch of COMESA designated Technology Centres and Science Parks and in addition, the Science Innovation Council and appointing Members of the Advisory Council.

She recalled that in June 2011 in Sandton, South Africa, negotiations for the COMESA, East African Community and Southern African Development Community Tripartite Free Trade Area were launched.

“The twenty six countries that constitute the planned Tripartite FTA have a combined population of 565 million people and a Gross Domestic Product of 1.1 trillion United States Dollars. Negotiations are on track and it is envisaged that they will be completed by June, 2014.

“As we negotiate the Tripartite FTA and implement the two pillars of infrastructure and industrialization we should be vigilant that the envisaged Tripartite FTA trade rules and policies are pro development and fair, just and equitable to all partners,” said Banda.

She expressed appreciation to the Members of the Bureau of the COMESA Authority for “their support and guidance”.

“I also wish to express my thanks to Your Excellencies for the support that you have individually and collectively rendered to me. As I hand over the Chair to my brother, His Excellency, President Museveni, I have no doubt that you will give him the support that you gave to me. On my part I will give our Chairman my full support and that of my country,” President Banda said in conclusion.

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