MORE than 90 per cent of COMESA countries’ exports are skewed towards low value extractive industry despite being rich in natural resources, says African Development Bank (AfDB) representative Damoni Kitabire.
Mr Kitabire said the region’s manufactured goods were not only undiversified but also stagnated in the upstream segments of value chains.
He said AfDB in collaboration with the East African Community and SADC has put together US$7.5 million tripartite capacity building programme to support COMESA member states.
And United States representative Floizelle Liser said her country had provided partnership funding to COMESA in excess of US$22 million in the latest agreement that began in 2009.
Ms Liser also said reducing barriers to facilitate trade within COMESA was a top priority for the US. She however said the US recognised COMESA and its member states’ efforts to reduce barriers during trade facilitation and customs reforms.
Meanwhile, European Union (EU) representative to COMESA Alessandro Mariani said the union had allocated Euros 85 million to the COMESA region to support regional economic integration focused on reducing intra-regional trade costs.
Mr Mariani said trade and transport costs in the region were among the highest in the world.
He said formal non-tariff barriers were numerous while many agreed regional commitments were yet to be domesticated at national level.
“The overall picture still displays a substantial untapped potential; formal COMESA intra-regional trade remains low in relative terms,” he said.
Mr Mariani also said EU under its 11th development fund committed 1.3 billion euros for the next six years to support regional economic integration out of which euros 85 million would be channelled to COMESA.
He said the euros 85 million would reduce the high intra-regional trade costs and promote SMEs development in the region while providing institutional capacity to COMESA member states.
“We are already working intensively with the COMESA secretariat and other partners to design new regional trade programmes in order to be ready to start implementation in 2016,” he said.
Mr Mariane also said COMESA member states would benefit from other components of regional package such as the euro 600 million earmarked for regional infrastructure