Regional Integration Stepping Stone to Joining World Economy: Minister
The road of regional integration is a stepping stone to becoming more fully integrated into the world economy, Ethiopian Financial and Economic Minister Sufian Ahmed said here Monday.
"Greater intra-regional trade promotes the export competitiveness of member countries, enhances their ability to compete on international markets and helps maintain the momentum of reform," Sufian said in an address at the opening session the 13th Council of Ministers of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
Through regional integration, member states could pull their resources to build up the necessary institutional capacity, affording each member country access to a higher level of technical and administrative competence, he said.
"For increased intra-regional trade to take place, we need to promote both domestic and foreign investment." A strong local and regional investment environment will inspire greater confidence and attract higher levels of foreign investment, the minister added.
During the meeting, which prepares for the seventh COMESA summit scheduled for May 23-24, COMESA Secretary-General Erastus Mwencha also said in an address that regionalism was increasingly gaining ground as the most viable response and as a stepping-stonetowards globalization by nations.
COMESA fully supported the integration process and has now come of age as a vehicle and instrument of sustainable growth, Mwencha said.
The two-day meeting of the Council of Ministers is convened to give recommendations to the coming summit of COMESA to be held here, in which African leaders are expected to review the progress under the Free Trade Area (FTA) of the organization.
The FTA established to stimulate trade and investment among the member states is designed by COMESA as the first step to set up a single currency zone and, in the long run, a closely integrated economic community in eastern and southern Africa.
COMESA was set up in 1994, with a combined population of 340 million, a total land mass of about 12.88 million square kilometers and an integrated gross domestic product of about 170 billion U.S. dollars.