President Museveni and the President of Malawi, Ms Joyce Banda, at State House Nakasero on Thursday. Ms Banda was in the country to attend the Comesa summit. PHOTO BY PPU President Museveni has discouraged a political integration at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) level, saying it is “unrealistic”.

According to the President, it does not make sense for the 19 Comesa members to federate politically.
“At the EAC (East African Community) we are doing the economic integration and then move to a political federation. But for Comesa, it should be economic integration because political federation is unrealistic,” he said.

Mr Museveni made the remarks on Friday while addressing the 16th Comesa Heads of States Summit at the Commonwealth Speke Resort- Munyonyo. The Summit was organised under the theme: ‘Enhancing Intra-Comesa trade through Micro-Small and Medium Enterprise Development’.

Uganda joined the Comesa Free Trade Area last week and now expects to, among other things, enjoy access to a market of more than 400 million people without paying import tax. The President argued that balkanisation weakens Africa’s individual state’s attempt to economically prosper, and the only prescription for that is embracing regional blocs which will make both the individual states stronger and the continent a better negotiating power with the rest of the world.

Mr Museveni said he hoped the tripartite arrangement between EAC, Comesa and SADC, would help unite African countries and improve the intra-Africa trade. He noted that most African countries are faced with the challenge of not being able to produce enough to support their people. He said the infrastructure in the Comesa region should be improved. “Our hope is to see a railway link to Southern Sudan, Gisenyi, Ethiopia to Somalia from Kenya and upgrading of the railway gauge,” Mr Museveni said.

The President noted that the Intra-Comesa trade is now worth $18.8 billion. Uganda’s export trade takes close to $1.3 billion (Shs3.4 trillion). This has been on an upward trend for the last five years. Uganda’s trade with Comesa stands at 57 per cent in 2011 up from 49 per cent in 2010.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in his speech, said the role that small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) play in regional economic growth and development is very vital and efforts should be put in place to facilitate and support their growth.

Mr Kibaki added that there is need to focus on infrastructure developments, access to credit and industrialisation if the region is to develop economically. “Infrastructure development is the engine of accelerating development. SMEs need the road and railway networks to move their goods and products. These need to be maintained and improved,” President Kibaki said.

It was also noted that Energy - focusing on solar, wind and geo-thermal as substitutes- needs to be exploited if SMEs are to develop. “It is urgently important that Comesa works with stakeholders in financial sector to come up with products that can be able to support entrepreneurs to access capital and improve productivity,” Mr Kibaki added.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister HaileMariam Desalegn said the theme of the summit seeks to improve the lives of all. He said Comesa should focus on the development of SMEs and youth unemployment.

“Without necessary infrastructure, it might be hard to achieve our desired development,” Mr Desalegn said. He added that Ethiopia had begun working with Sudan, Djibouti and Kenya to improve infrastructure. Ms Dlamini Zuma, the chairperson of the African Union, called upon African countries to guarantee food security which she said could guarantee the sustainability of its citizenry. “If we don’t pay attention to development, the lack of it will continue to be a threat to peace and stability on the continent,” Ms Zuma said.



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