The European Union (EU) and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) have signed three cooperation agreements worth over €55 million to support regional integration and spur the region’s economic growth.
The agreements encompass the economic integration process, climate change and political integration.
According to the regional economic community’s commniqué, the development is in line with its Medium Strategic Plan for 2011-2015.
Comesa, whose 19 member states include Zimbabwe, is one of Africa’s major markets whose annual import bill hit $152 billion in 2008 with external shipments ticking up to over $157 billion the same financial year.
The bloc’s secretary-general Sindiso Ngwenya said Comesa was the only regional economic community with a contribution agreement with the EU.
“I would like to assure our member states and the EU that the funds will be used to improve compliance and create synergies between national and regional programmes,” said Ngwenya.
“In this vein it is worth noting that Comesa has intentions of utilising the 10th EDF regional funding to expand and interconnect key regional transport corridors initiated under national EDF envelopes.”
Ngwenya said the two trading blocs were currently appraising a €50 million programme in the context of the North-South corridor.
The first agreement is the Regional Integration Support Programme (RISP2) which supports the economic integration process of the eastern and southern Africa and Indian Ocean (ESA-IO) regions.
It seeks to enhance the capacities of organisations from the region (Comesa Inter-governmental Authority on Development [IGAD], East Africa Community [EAC]) and stakeholders in member states to liberalise trade, create integrated markets and address obstacles to trade.
RISP2 consists of a 100% EU contribution of €50 million and will be implemented over the next 36 months through a contribution agreement, a mechanism that allows Comesa to implement the programme using its own procedures.
The second programme, which relates to “climate change adaptation and mitigation in the eastern and southern African region”, is a multi-donor programme of €45 million to which the EU contributes €4 million.
This programme is part of the EU Global Climate Change Alliance with the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions and countries, to step up cooperation between the EU and the developing countries that are hit earliest and hardest by climate change.
The third programme is the “regional political integration and human security support programme”.
The project will be implemented by three regional organisations —EAC, IGAD and Comesa — at an estimated cost of €4,9 million.
The outgoing head of the EU delegation accredited to Comesa, Dr Derek Fee, said EU continues to support Comesa in its different missions.
“With these programmes, the EU demonstrates its commitment to support Comesa in its traditional missions of economic integration as well as in its endeavours to reply to arising global challenges, such as political and human security and climate change,” said Dr Fee.