Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the European Union have signed an €8,8 million Contribution Agreement to increase private sector participation in sustainable regional and global value chains.
Comesa, to which Zimbabwe is a member, said increased private sector participation in sustainable regional and global value chains will be through improved investment or business climate and enhanced competitiveness within the trading bloc.
“The funds will be used to implement the Regional Enterprise Competitiveness and Access to Markets Programme (RECAMP), focusing on agro-processing, horticulture and leather products.
“RECAMP will also support pre-selected value chains based on the potential to generate value addition, jobs creation and attraction of investments to the region,” said the 21-member trading bloc.
Other countries within Comesa include Zambia, Uganda, Djibouti, Tunisia, Egypt, Malawi, Swaziland, Rwanda, Lybia and Eritrea, among others.
The Contribution Agreement was signed last Friday by EU Ambassador to Zambia and Permanent Representative to Comesa Ambassador Jacek Jankowski and Comesa secretary-general Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe.
It is hoped that RECAMP will address critical issues, such as provision of business information, facilitating market linkages, harmonising regional industrial policies and creating a conducive business environment to attract investments.
RECAMP will also strive to ensure collaboration with activities of national trade support institutions and business development and service organisations in member States as they provide services to value chains as part of their mandate.
These include product development, facilitation of technology transfer, provision of business intelligence and connection to buyers.
The programme will identify champions or lead firms within the selected value chains that have backward and forward linkages with Small to Medium Enterprises and other intermediary firms to enhance effect co-ordination, reduce co-ordination failures and improve competitiveness.
In her remarks, Ms Kapwepwe said the programme will make efforts to enhance the capacities and skills of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to make them capable players in the value-chain development.
“A significant number of MSMEs, especially women and youth owned enterprises, are vulnerable when it comes to participating in value-chains networks at the national, regional and global level because of their competitiveness” she said.
It is estimated that between 3,5 and five million SMEs are in the region, but their growth and competitiveness was being constrained by various bottlenecks such as lack of access to finance and related services, restrictive business environment, lack of affordable technology among others.
A significant number of them are active women entrepreneurs.
In particular, SMEs in the region play a pivotal role in their contribution to employment and Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of member states which is estimated at between 20 and 25 percent.
Amb Jankowski pledged the EU’s commitment to continue the partnership with Comesa to ensure regional integration remains as inclusive as possible in view of the challenges posed by climate change.
“Increasing exploitation of natural resources and the environment, and in view of demographic trends makes prioritising investments in value chains that are environmentally sensitive, socially sound and economically viable,” he was quoted as saying.
RECAMP is supported under the 11th European Development Fund Comesa sub envelope.
The programme is in line with the EU and Comesa policies in support of the private sector. — @okazunga