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Comesa: AGOA should focus on investment

Published date:
Monday, 17 August 2009

The United States has been challenged to seek ways of increasing investment in Africa to enable the continent take fuller advantage of Africa Growth Opportunity Act.

Experts say the levels of savings in Africa as being too low to promote investment, thus the need to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Speaking during the plenary session on ‘Successes, Challenges and Prospects of AGOA’, recently, the Secretary General of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Mr Siniso Ngwenya said: “Whereas modest increases in trade with the US clearly showed that preferences do work, there was need to further boost trade by increasing investment particularly in value addition of African primary products”.

He cited the case of the cotton sector in which there has been investment in ginning but no significant investment in spinning and weaving thus leaving the continent as mainly an exporter of lint.

Additionally, Mr Ngwenya cited the importance of diversification and the need to ensure both trade and investment policy are appropriate for the many millions of people at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ who need to be integrated into local, regional and international markets.

He emphasised the value of infrastructural development in unleashing the economic development potential of key sectors such as agriculture, particularly focusing on the importance of railway sub-sector development.

Responding to questions during the plenary, the Secretary General highlighted that the benefits of Comesa membership included an expanded regional market which attracts investors as big firms prefer to look at larger regional markets rather than small national markets.

In the meantime Comesa will hold the TIFA (US-Comesa Trade and Investment Agreement) council meeting in Lusaka, Zambia from September 17 –18 2009 where details of trade and investment matters are expected to be discussed.

In addition, during the AGOA, Comesa made presentations on the progress the COMESA region had made in harmonising agriculture policies and regulatory standards and on financing Climate Change mitigation in agriculture.

To spur growth, Comesa’s current strategy is ‘economic prosperity through regional integration’.

With its 19 member states, a population of over 389 million and annual import bill of around $32 billion (Shs67.2 trillion) with an export bill of $82 billion (Shs172.2 trillion), Comesa forms a major market place for both internal and external trading.

At her recent visit US Secretary of State Ms Hilary Clinton urged Africa before they think of markets outside Africa, should embark on promoting trade amongst each other.

Comesa offers its members and partners a wide range of benefits which include; a wider, harmonised and more competitive market, greater industrial productivity and competitiveness and increased agricultural production and food security.

It also offers a more rational exploitation of natural resources, more harmonised monetary, banking and financial policies and more reliable transport and communications infrastructure.




“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of COMESA's bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.


Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)











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