By Raymond Baguma and Samuel Sanya
President Yoweri Museveni today Friday 23rd November 2012 assumed chairmanship of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) regional economic bloc.
Museveni takes over from the outgoing President Joyce Banda of Malawi who handed over the chairpersonship during the 16th summit of the COMESA heads of state and government.
The summit taking place at the Speke Resort Munyonyo will close on Saturday 24th November 2012, and is taking place under the theme, “enhancing intra-COMESA trade through micro, small and medium enterprise development.”
President Museveni in his address said that African economies are too divided up, which undermines their profitability and countries cannot attract foreign direct investment. He said that there is need for integration of African countries through trading blocs
Museveni cited the China which despite being under communism with no multiparty democracy has attracted over US$1.2 trillion in foreign direct investment since 1978. Yet the East African region which is under multiparty democracy with free market economies has been able to attract only US$19.1 billion in foreign direct investment over the same period.
“China has overtaken France, Germany and Japan. With 1.3 billion people and land size of 3 million square miles, there is no political balkanization of the Chinese race. Yet the African race is Balkanized,” Museveni said.
He said that the political balkanization of Africa has implication on defence and security for the African continent and the continent is lagging behind China and Europe in the fields such as space science.
Museveni said that integration in Africa should have an economic dimension and where possible, political integration, citing the East African Community which is aiming at both and Uganda belongs to both EAC as well as COMESA.
“EAC intends to go further because people are compatible and its aims for integration, leading to political federation. For COMESA, a political federation is unrealistic, but economic integration is possible,” said Museveni.
COMESA is a regional grouping of 19 African countries, with a potential market of over 400 million people and a combined GDP of $799 billion by 2010, making it one of the biggest African trading blocs. The countries include Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, DR Congo, Burundi, Comoros, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Djibouti, Madagascar, Mauritius, Malawi, Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Seychelles and Swaziland.
The summit is attended by African leaders who include Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Mwai Kibaki (Kenya), Joyce Banda (Malawi), Dr. Ikiliou Dhoinine (Comoros) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
Others include Prime Ministers Mizengo Kayanza Pinda (Tanzania), Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini (Swaziland) and Pierre Damien Habumuremyi (Rwanda). Vice presidents Dr. Gervais Rufykiri (Burundi) and Danny Foure (Seychelles), African Union chairperson Zuma Dlamini and the Egyptian minister of investment Osman Saleh.
Museveni said that in order for regional trade to increase within the COMESA region, there is need to work on infrastructure development with a railway links to Southern Sudan, DR Congo and Rwanda, as well as Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
Download President Museveni's Speech here