Vice-President Saulos Chilima has asked Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) to devise an economic recovery plan as a response to the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has caused within the trade bloc.
In his address to the 21st Comesa Heads of State and Government Summit yesterday in Cairo, Egypt on behalf of President Lazarus Chakwera, he lamented that Covid-19 has reversed most economic gains that Comesa member States had achieved over the years.
Zooming in on Malawi, Chilima, who is also Minister of Economic Planning and Development; and Public Sector Reforms, said the country has had its fair share of the negative impact that the pandemic caused on the economy.
He said as a commodity dependent nation, Malawi’s agro industries have shrunk and in some cases, closed down.
In the speech made available to The Nation, Chilima said: “People have no jobs and, therefore, no incomes. Our exports have significantly dropped as major export destinations, regrettably, are the most affected…
“This summit comes at a devastating period. Therefore, as a response, we need to develop a robust economic recovery plan. We need to build back. We need to build resilience. Soon, Covid-19 will no longer be an excuse to our people.”
From a regional perspective, the Vice-President told the summit that the value of Comesa’s total exports to the world decreased by 27 percent from $123.4 billion in 2019 to $90.3 billion in 2020 while the value of intra-Comesa total exports declined by 11 percent from $10.9 billion in 2019 to $9.7 billion in 2020.
On the value of intra-Comesa trade, Chilima said such a value remains structurally low at around 11 percent relative to other regions, citing North America whose intra-Comesa trade is valued at 40 percent and Europe at 63 percent.
He said what is more worrying is the low uptake of vaccines within Comesa region currently at less than three percent, with only Seychelles, Mauritius and Tunisia as leading member States on vaccination levels.
On digitalisation, Chilima said Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the need and importance of providing digital solutions as the only way to create resilience in trade.
He appealed to member States to adopt e-commerce platforms so as to explore new market opportunities.
Comesa assistant secretary general of programmes Kipyego Cheluget assured that Comesa is geared to implementing the issues raised by member States during the summit.
He also said the regional bloc is committed to ensure that vaccine uptake is increased while also coming up with tailor made programmes to empower women and the youth in the region.
During the summit, Egypt assumed the new chairmanship of Comesa Heads of State and Government also known as the Comesa Authority and President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi took over from President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar.
Comesa has a population of 583 million people and an economy of $805 billion which economic experts believe provides more opportunities for markets and foreign direct investment.