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37th COMESA Policy Organs Meetings

Statement from the

 Delegation of the EUROPEAN UNION

 30 October 2017



The Chairman of the Intergovernmental Committee,

Honourable Ministers

Secretary General of COMESA and COMESA colleagues

Senior Government Officials

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Distinguished guests

Representatives of the Media


It is a pleasure and a privilege to have the opportunity to address all of you today at the opening of the 37th COMESA Policy Organs Meetings here in Lusaka. Let me first of all thank the COMESA Secretariat, and in particular his Secretary General, for organising this very important meeting and for inviting the Delegation of the European Union to COMESA to make this Statement.

The European Union attaches the utmost importance to its long-lasting partnership with COMESA, which is a testimony of our continued strong commitment to support the regional economic integration process in the COMESA region.

COMESA has been, since its creation, a driving force for economic integration in its region and in the African continent. The European Union firmly believes in the great benefits of regional economic integration: it creates bigger markets, attracts investments, facilitates trade flows and reduces production costs and prices for consumers. Being the biggest trade and development partner of COMESA, let me state that the European Union will continue to support the economic integration in the region based on your own priorities and the commitment at all levels, including at the level of the COMESA Member States that are indeed responsible for the domestication of the regional agenda. We wish to stress the concept of ownership which is of paramount importance for a sustainable regional economic integration. In the absence of ownership the risk is to be confronted with a low level of domestication of decisions taken at the regional level and a low level of sustainability of regional development programs. At best the regional programs may produce results for their period of implementation but it is unavoidable that little by little their results are eroded in case the programs are not fully owned and further sustained.

Under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), a regional envelope of 1.3 billion Euro has been allocated to the Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean region for the period 2014-2020 in order to support Regional Economic Integration, Peace and Security as well as the Management of Natural Resources. This support, entirely in the form of grants, is complementary with the support provided by the European Union at country level through national envelopes in many different sectors such as infrastructure, trade, private sector development, good governance, fight against climate change, etc. These combined efforts are greatly contributing to make the region more integrated and a stronger partner.

Recently, a mid-term review exercise of the 11th EDF has been conducted in close cooperation with the different regional organisations in order to take stock of our partnership and adapt it if necessary to the rapidly changing environment. I am pleased to inform you that the European Commission will be proposing to the EU Member States that this exercise would lead to a net increase of the financial allocation made available to the Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean region to promote regional integration. There will also be a stronger focus on growth, investments and jobs creation, with a specific allocation for the implementation of the EU External Investment Plan.

At this juncture I wish to take the opportunity to state that the "EU External Investment Plan marks a new approach for eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development. By leveraging in particular private finance, our contribution" (4.1 billion Euro for the entire initiative open to Africa and the Neighbourhood) "will leverage up to 44 billion Euro of investments which otherwise would not happen. Now it is up to all key players of the private sector in Europe and in our partner countries to join us in creating sustainable growth and decent jobs for all".

In very concrete terms the new European Fund for Sustainable Development lies at the core of the EU External Investment Plan and will be used to mobilise additional public and private investments also through a new guarantee which will provide partial guarantees to intermediary financing institutions, which will in turn provide support via loans, guarantees, equity etc to final beneficiaries. The objective is to leverage additional financing, in particular from the private sector, as the EFSD guarantee will reduce the risk for private sector investment and absorb potential losses incurred for example by public financing institutions and private sector investors.  The EU External Investment Plan will be also used to step up technical assistance for instance for the preparation of bankable projects thus paving the way to partner countries to attract investments; and will be also used to improve economic governance, the business environment and engaging with the private sector (e.g.: reinforced policy dialogue; training on policy formulation; making full use of existing initiatives in energy and agriculture).      

The theme of this year's COMESA Policy Organs ("Towards Digital Economic Integration") is very relevant to these strategic priorities. Digital technologies facilitate interconnectivity and have a key role to play in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, through accelerating access to and diffusion of knowledge, accelerating inclusive economic growth and contributing to jobs creation. Digital technologies can also serve to foster institutional accountability and governance.

We are all aware of the substantial progress made in the development of digital technologies on the African continent in the last few years. However, a gap with other regions in the world remains.

Digital technologies have also a central role to play in fostering regional economic integration in Africa and in the COMESA region. Borders interconnectivity, e-technologies for cross-border payments, electronic certificates of origin are all examples of key initiatives to enhance trade facilitation, connect economic operators and improve the business environment.

The European Union is confident that a digital economic integration is going to be instrumental in accelerating the pace of economic integration and regional development.

I thank you all for your attention and wish you an excellent work and deliberations over the next days.

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