Egypt president urges more regional integration within COMESA to address challenges

Ahram Online , Thursday 8 Jun 2023

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi urged member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to exert more efforts to achieve regional integration in order to address the current challenges.

Sisi addresses COMESA 22nd Summit
A still photo of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi addresses the 22nd COMESA Heads of State and Governments Summit in the Zambian capital of Lusaka on Thursday.


El Sisi’s remarks came at the 22nd COMESA Heads of State and Governments Summit in the Zambian capital Lusaka, held on Thursday. 

Egypt handed over the two-year presidency of the continental 21-member-state bloc to Zambia.

“It was a great honour for Egypt to take over the leadership of the COMESA over the past two years during a very delicate period that witnessed important developments at the international and regional levels,” the president said.

El-Sisi expressed his confidence that the Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema would do all he can to build on the achievements of the Egyptian chairmanship.

الرئيس السيسي يسلم الرئاسة الدورية لتجمع  كوميسا  من مصر إلى زامبيا

El-Sisi highlighted Egypt's priorities during its chairmanship, which focused on advancing economic integration rates to enhance the level of well-being of our people and promote the capabilities of peace and security in our countries.

“However, despite the successes that have been achieved, we still have much to do to enable our regional integration to face the current challenges,” he said.

President El-Sisi stated that intra-COMESA trade rose to $13 billion in 2022, the highest value since establishing the free trade zone within the framework of the COMESA in 2000.

He also commended the role of the COMESA Regional Investment Agency (RIA), which is based in Cairo, Egypt.

El-Sisi indicated that Egypt, in its capacity as COMESA chair, has focused on activating the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to boost economic growth, adding that the volume of trade exchange between Egypt and the COMESA countries reached $ 4.3 billion in 2022 – the highest amount since Egypt joined the bloc.

The country was also keen on achieving harmony between Egypt and the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area through specific measures to urge member states to implement customs exemptions and facilitate the movement of trade exchange among them, he said.

Furthermore, the president stated that during its presidency Egypt also focused on the infrastructure sector by encouraging interconnection projects between member states. He cited the Julius Nyerere Hydroelectric Power Project (JNHPP), constructed by Egyptian and Tanzanian hands.

“[The JNHPP] represents one of the most important development and integration projects between our [African] countries,” El-Sisi said, adding that it “generates electric power amounting to 2.5 Gigawatt”.

Moreover, he referred to the interconnection project of the naval route between Lake Victoria and the Mediterranean Sea.

The theme of the 22nd summit is "Economic Integration for a Thriving COMESA Anchored on Green Investment, Value Addition, and Tourism".

According to the COMESA website, it reflects the need to address the current regional and global economic and trade dynamics, including the effects of COVID-19 and its adverse impacts on tourism-dependent economies.

The summit aims to promote development, economic, and trade integration among COMESA member states.

El-Sisi also referred to Egypt's role as a regional "hub" for manufacturing pharmaceuticals and vaccines, indicating that the country has provided 30 million doses of the Coronavirus vaccine to many African countries. 

He added that Egypt also hosted the second edition of the Africa Health ExCon in Cairo, highlighting the country's efforts to localize the pharmaceutical industry.   

Egypt wishes to invest in this "vital area" and has submitted a proposal to establish the COMESA Committee on Health, the president went on. 

Sudanese crisis

El-Sisi also spoke about the latest developments in the Sudanese crisis, asserting that member states must consolidate to support Sudan's people.

He stressed in his speech that "we are facing a magnitude of challenges that impose on the sustainability of peace and security in our countries."

"I call upon all countries to provide the necessary support for our brothers and sisters in this critical moment of history," the president affirmed.

"Egypt continues to host men, women and children from Sudan and is undertaking its responsibility as an immediate neighbour," El-Sisi resumed. 

In May, Egypt became the largest host of Sudanese refugees after allowing 164,00 Sudanese individuals to enter.  

The president stated that Egypt has engaged with all existing mechanisms and international partners to bring security and stability to Sudan, asserting that world countries must respect African nations’ right to life.  

Preserving any country's national institutions is paramount as they represent its "backbone of stability and security," El-Sisi added.

In this context, he also announced Egypt's candidacy to the African and Peace Security Council for 2024-2026, highlighting that such candidacy pays tribute to his country's role in supporting peace and security efforts in Africa. 

At the end of his speech, El-Sisi reiterated that Egypt would spare no effort in pushing African states towards development and fulfilling its role as the head of the post-conflict reconstruction and development file in the African Union.


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