Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni assumed the chairmanship of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) at the heads of state summit on Friday.
The summit that started on 16th November and ended Saturday 24th at the Speke Resort Munyonyo was held under the theme “enhancing intra-COMESA trade through micro, small and medium enterprise development.”
President Museveni takes over from Malawi’s President Joyce Banda.
In his address to the heads of state, Museveni blamed Africa’s failure to attract Foreign Direct Investment on disunity while lauding the Chinese for their ability to attract Foreign Direct Investment despite their communist type of leadership.
China has attracted over US$1.2 trillion in FDIs compared to East Africa’s US$19.1 billion since 1978.
“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
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 leaders who attended the conference included Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Mwai Kibaki (Kenya), Joyce Banda (Malawi), Dr. Ikiliou Dhoinine (Comoros) and Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
Prime ministers Mizengo Kayanza Pinda (Tanzania), Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini (Swaziland) and Pierre Damien Habumuremyi (Rwanda) are also in attendence.
Meanwhile, Trade pundits have supported Uganda’s decision to join the Free Trade Area predicting good times ahead for the east African nation saying the new role will bring huge benefits to the country.
Uganda last week announced it was joining the regional bloc’s Free Trade Area.
As a result of joining the FTA, tariff charges on imports and exports between Uganda and other COMESA states will drop to 2% from 10%.
As the chair, Uganda will also have the chance to influence discussions and decisions especially on trade related matters.