The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) yesterday appointed Chileshe Kapwepwe, a Zambian, as the new and first female secretary general (SG) of the 21-member regional bloc.
The recommendation for her appointment by the Council of Ministers was endorsed by the Comesa Heads of State and Government Meeting in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.
Former alternate executive director of the International Monetary Fund, Kapwepwe becomes fourth SG of Comesa, succeeding Sindiso Ngwenya, a Zimbabwean whose tenure ends on July 31 after serving two- five-year terms.
Kapwepwe, who also served as Zambia’s deputy minister of Finance and National Planning from 2008 to 2011, is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (United Kingdom-UK) and the Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants. She holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Bath in the UK.
She has 20 years management experience in both the private and public sectors, serving in the aviation and motor industries, and also in international trade and quality assurance matters.
Her appointment incidentally means that both Comesa and Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc), two regional economic blocs, are now headed by women. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, a Tanzanian, heads Sadc as executive secretary since September 1, 2013.
Malawi chaired a panel of countries that selected Kapwepwe over four other candidates from Ethiopia, Kenya, Kingdom of eSwatini and Sudan.
These candidates were Jabulile Mashwama (Kingdom of eSwatini); Kipyego Cheluget (Kenya) and current deputy secretary general; Abdalla Hamdok (Sudan); and Mulu Ketsela (Ethiopia).
Ngwenya, who joined Comesa as Preferential Trade Area (PTA) on February 1 1984 as a transport economist, rose through different positions to succeed Erastus Mweencha of Kenya who had taken over from former Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika.
The Comesa authority also renewed the contract of the assistant secretary responsible for general programmes, Cheluget, who was appointed on February 1 2013 and completed a five-year term.