August 31, 2005, Zambia Daily Mail

Government says the private sector in Zambia has failed to exploit trade opportunities in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

Commerce Trade and Industry permanent secretary, Davidson Chilipamushi, said Zambians have particularly failed to take advantage of the market in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.

He said it was disheartening that Zambians have not taken advantage of the market in the three countries and instead allowed South Africa, which is not a member of the COMESA, to supply DRC and the Great Lakes region.

He said Zambians should use their membership to COMESA and the country’s and the country’s proximity to DRC and Great Lakes region to boost export of goods and services.

Mr. Chilipamushi, who was officiating at the Linkages Between Trade Development and Poverty Reduction workshop national launch, said as Southern African Development Community (SADC) and COMESA move towards a custom union, there is a need for Government to make a decision on which regional grouping to belong to.

He added that Zambia has historical ties with most countries in the SADC region and the infrastructure in these countries was built by the colonial masters to facilitate trade flows.

He noted that recently the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with United Nation Conference for Trade and development and Consumer Unity & Trust held a stakeholders workshop to discuss the investment policy review for Zambia.

Mr. Chilipamushi said Government is working towards identifying the priority reforms and trade – related technical assistance programme to overcome the constraints to expansion and diversification of exports.

He added that Government has identified a number of problems within the domestic market, which makes it difficult for existing investors to expand.

“Our findings suggest that there are a lot of administrative barriers to trade. We have issues of immigration and customs, high cost of doing business, high interest rates and incentive structure for business is something we have to work on,” he said.

Mr. Chilipamushi said if Zambia is to develop, there is need to work on all the identified obstacles, which are being addressed through the private sector development Programme.

He also noted that linkages between trade development and poverty-reduction that is a four-year project is being implemented in 15 selected countries, Africa, Asia and Europe in a partnership mode.
The objective of the project is to strengthen the ability of developing countries through provision of policy support, trade and development issues.

Mr. Chilipamushi said the project will facilitate cross fertilization of experiences and lessons learnt on linkages between trade, development and poverty-reduction in developing countries to attain appropriate policy responses.