The Chairman of the Intergovernmental Committee,
Secretary General of COMESA and COMESA colleagues
Senior Government Officials
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Representatives of the Media
All protocols observed
It is a pleasure and a privilege to have the opportunity to address all of you today at the very beginning of the 36th COMESA Policy Organs Meetings here in Antananarivo. First of all a vote of thanks to the Government and People of Madagascar for the warm welcome reserved to all of us and for the organisation of the events.
The European Union attaches great importance to its long-lasting, wide and comprehensive, partnership with COMESA which is a testimony of the continued, strong, commitment of the European Union to support regional development and regional integration.
This year's central theme of the COMESA Policy Organs meetings and Summit is "inclusive and sustainable industrialization", which we understand is one of the key challenges and opportunities for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The inclusive and sustainable industrialization agenda is in line with the EU Agenda for Change that focuses on promoting "inclusive and sustainable economic growth" worldwide.
Economic diversification and local value addition are crucial to move away from over-dependence on exports of raw materials. This becomes more evident at times such as today when the demand for metals in emerging economies is moderating and commodity prices suffer from it.
This economic diversification has to take place in a sustainable way by addressing the challenges of climate change, losses of biodiversity and environmental degradation.
Policy goals need to be accompanied and sustained by concrete actions such as those financed by the European Union under the EDF bilateral programs agreed at country level with COMESA member countries and those financed by the European Union under the EDF regional programs such as the one for the Eastern, Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Region. All together this support accounts for approx. 7 billion Euro of grants. At the regional level, our partnership with COMESA focuses on the promotion of trade and economic regional integration.
We are all well aware of the great benefits of integration. Regional integration leads to bigger markets, facilitated trade flows; reduced production costs and prices for consumers. This further stimulates domestic and foreign investments. For Africa, regional integration can also be a building block for wider integration at continental level and into the world trading system. However, regional integration is not an easy process. It implies giving away some national prerogatives and needs strong political leadership at the level of the Member States, leadership and organization for the domestication of commitments taken at regional level, as well as strong and powerful regional organizations in the driving seat.
Beyond the bilateral and regional EDF allocations which all of you are familiar with I would like to take this opportunity to inform you that last month the European Union has launched a new strategic initiative “the European External Investment Plan” to encourage investment in Africa and in the EU Neighbourhood to strengthen our partnerships, promote a new model of participation of the private sector and contribute to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This plan represents a new approach moving beyond classical development assistance. While the traditional development assistance remains important it is clear that this alone cannot meet the challenge of achieving sustainable development growth. It must be complemented by other tools in order to make best use of and leverage public funds.
As stated by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini: “We see regions with a huge potential that is held back by war, poverty, the lack of infrastructure, and weak governance. Our European Union is already the first donor worldwide: we invest more in development cooperation than the rest of the world combined. But we also know that public resources cannot be sufficient if we want to untap this huge potential and achieve the sustainable development goals. European firms are already creating jobs and growth in our entire neighbourhood and Africa, for the benefit of our partners and of the European citizens. While creating the conditions for Europeans to expand their business and move into new countries, the new External Investment Plan will support our partners’ economies and societies, as well as our strategic foreign policy goals, from security to global development”
The European Union has allocated € 3.35 billion of grants from the budget and EDF for the External Investment Plan until 2020 and this should serve to mobilise and leverage up to € 44 billion additional investment. The External Investment Plan will be used to (i) mobilise investments, through the new guarantee, under the External Fund for Sustainable Development; (ii) step up technical assistance to develop financially attractive and mature projects and thus helping to mobilise higher investments; (iii) improve economic governance, the business environment and engage with the private sector.
The European Union is confident that all these initiatives will be instrumental in facilitating and 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.