The International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) on Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the designing and implementation of trade-related technical assistance across the 19-member trade bloc.
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ITC executive director Arancha González and Comesa Secretary-General Sindiso Ngwenya signed the MOU on behalf of their organisations.
They pledged to cooperate on areas such as regional integration, trade facilitation, improving SME competitiveness and enhancing trade and investment climate.
Ngwenya said the ITC-Comesa partnership would help develop and create capacity for national and regional initiatives in a bid to boost competitiveness.
“We intend to use the partnership as a key component to increase the quality of products and improve productivity,” he said.
Ngwenya noted that many African entrepreneurs did not know how to advertise their products effectively. He said in most cases, packaging was so poor that it did not have a significant impact on the market.
“Comesa and ITC would help African entrepreneurs develop creative solutions and innovations that better meet consumers’ expectations and demands,” Ngwenya said.
“Expanding intra-African trade holds the key to growth in African countries,” said González.
“Regional Economic Commissions such as Comesa are critical in ensuring the coherence between national and regional initiatives and to support SMEs in Africa to achieve competitiveness. ITC is pleased to strengthen our existing partnership with Comesa and to assist countries to achieve economic growth through trade and SME competitiveness.”
González said ITC’s partnership with Comesa was particularly important for the region’s smaller economies, whose prospects would improve as regional integration created larger markets and more opportunities for regional value chains.
The partnership would provide continued support to countries seeking to meet their commitments under the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), with special attention to providing guidance to small and medium-sized enterprises which suffer the most from high trading costs.
The implementation of the TFA is expected to provide huge economic benefits to business and governments arising from enhanced regional trade.
In line with both organisations’ goal of providing better opportunities for youth and women in trade, both ITC and Comesa would step up their efforts to strengthen the capacity of trade and investment support institutions and business women’s networks.