The European Union and COMESA have signed an 8.8m Euros Contribution Agreement to increase private sector participation in sustainable regional and global value chains through improved investment/business climate and enhanced competitiveness in the COMESA region. This was one of the activities conducted during the opening of the 40th Meeting of the Council of Ministers that took place in Lusaka, Zambia recently.
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.
The EU Ambassador to Zambia and Permanent Representative to COMESA, H.E Jacek Jankowski and Secretary General of COMESA Chileshe Kapwepwe signed the Agreement. RECAMP will address critical issues, such as provision of business information, facilitating market linkages, harmonizing regional industrial policies and creating a conducive business environment to attract investments. It will strive to ensure collaboration with activities of national trade support institutions and business development and service organizations in Member States as they provide services to value chains as part of their mandate.
These include product development; facilitate 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 both backward and forward linkages with SMEs and other intermediary firms in order to enhance effect coordination reduce coordination 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 to make them capable players in the value-chain development.
It is estimated that there is approximately 3.5 to 5 million SMEs in the region, but their growth and competitiveness are 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 Small and Medium Enterprises (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 – 25%. Ambassador Jankowski assured the EU’s commitment to continue the partnership with COMESA to ensure that regional integration remains as inclusive as possible in view of the challenges posed by climate change.
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, with a budget of EUR 8.8 million and duration of 48 months.