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The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) Secretariat and COMESA will establish a partnership framework to support the implementation of the continental trade regime.

Technical teams from the two organizations are expected to start working immediately on the framework by establishing committees to deal with specific aspects of the partnership.

This was resolved during the first visit by the Secretary General of the AfCTA Secretariat Wamkele Mene to the COMESA Secretariat in Lusaka, Zambia.

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Mene was received by his COMESA counterpart Chileshe Kapwepwe and senior members of staff.

Mene observed that COMESA has well established and strong institutions to support implementation of the AfCTA besides being the largest regional economic community in Africa, hence an important building block for the success of the continental trade regime.

Stressing the need for COMESA and other regional economic communities to support implementation of the continental trade agreement, Mene said the AfCTA provides the best chance for Africa’s development to succeed.

“The priority now is how to work together to push back the frontiers of poverty in our continent,” he said adding that industrial development and deepening intra-Africa trade was among the key areas of focus.

He underscored the important role that regional economic communities will continue to play as the building blocks for the successful implementation of the continental trade regime citing COMESA, was one of those that AfCTA will count on owing to its strong institutions established over the years to facilitate regional trade.

Secretary General Kapwepwe assured that her organization was keen to work with the AfCFTA and other RECs in advancing intra-African trade as this was the only way the continent could reduce poverty and enhance development.

“We need to work together to deepen intra-Africa trade as this is the only answer to the many challenges that our continent is facing.” Kapwepwe said. “Trade in many areas such as agriculture products and developing our manufacturing and industrial sectors can greatly assist Africa.”

She called for the extension of the piloting of the Pan African Payment System from the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) region to the rest of Africa as one way that the two organizations can begin to collaborate.

Other cooperation areas could include partnerships with COMESA institutions such as the Trade and Development Bank, the African Trade Insurance Agency, the COMESA Competition Commission and the COMESA Business Council.

Kapwepwe identified some of the key challenges affecting regional free trade as dependency on development partners for funding programmes, slow ratification of instruments, high cost of doing business and inadequate infrastructure.