"That the commodity super cycle bubble has burst is actually good news"
Sindiso Ngwenya, Director General, Comesa
Comesa were one of the key drivers behind the Africa 2016 Forum and a partner in the success of the tripartite agreement signed last June in Sharm-el-Sheikh, to create a Free Trade Area with EAC and SADC. Sindiso Ngwenya, Comesa's Director General, Spoke to New African's Darren Moore.
New African: Are you happy with the progress that has been made with the tripartite agreement thus far and what does it mean in real terms for yourself and the continent now?
Sindiso Ngwenya: We are making much faster progress now, and there are several reasons for this. As you know, regional integration is essentially both an economic and political project. It requires leadership at every political level ... and at that level we are quite happy, because we have seen Comesa constantly evolve over the years.
When we are talking about Comesa, we are not only talking about the activities of the secretariat. The most important activities are coming from states' autonomous institutions. Regional integration is not going to happen because political leaders say it must happen! It will happen because it is primarily driven by the private sector, and driven by people--it must be people-driven and people-centred.
This is why I have three areas to tell you about where we have been successful. If you look at what I call physical connectivity--that is, in terms of roads, in terms of fibre optics, or telecoms etc., we are making progress in these areas. For example, if you take the dream of having the Cairo-Cape Town trans-African highway, this is soon going to be realised.
But then we also have the soft aspect of that connectivity. We need to have the integrated quota management systems for immigration and customs etc., so that we can do away with our [historical] legacy--which is one of the reasons why the cost of a container from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Zambia is $7,000, while it is only $2,000 from Milan, Italy to Dar es Salaam. Some of that cost is attributable to regulatory requirements, and we are definitely developing things in that regard; this is why we have implemented the Comesa virtual trading facility system.
We need to ensure that [different states'] institutions are not working in isolation. Rather, they need to establish linkages between their respective bureaus and ensure mutual cooperation. We need to work together...