CAIRO: Advancing economic integration in Africa is key to achieving peace and security on the continent, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has said.
His comments on Thursday came at the 22nd Summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa in Zambia.
He said: “Egypt has assumed the leadership of the COMESA over the past two years, during a very delicate period that witnessed important developments at the international and regional levels.”
The Egyptian leader highlighted important steps that the group has made over the past two years.
He said: “With regard to the field of economic development, Egypt has paid great attention to activating the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement and achieving harmony between it and the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area through specific measures to urge member states to implement customs exemptions and facilitate the movement of trade exchange among them.
“These efforts resulted in an increase in intra-exports of the COMESA to reach $13 billion in 2022, the highest value since the establishment of the free trade zone within the framework of the COMESA in 2000.”
Trade between Egypt and the COMESA countries last year reached its highest value ever, $4.3 billion, since Egypt joined the bloc, El-Sisi added.
EAC and SADC refer to Southern African Development Community and East African Community, respectively.
COMESA includes 21 countries: Egypt, Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Malawi, Madagascar, Libya, Seychelles, Rwanda, Mauritius, Tunisia, Sudan, Somalia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Uganda.
El-Sisi also highlighted recent developments in a number of African countries, notably Sudan, with the situation “requiring us to join forces to support its people.”
He said: “I emphasize that Egypt is assuming its responsibilities as a direct neighboring country by making all endeavors with the active parties and international partners, and engaging in existing mechanisms, to ensure coordination between them in order to reach a secure and stable Sudan.”
The Egyptian president announced his country’s candidature for the African Peace and Security Council for the 2024–2026 term.
Egypt’s proposed leadership demonstrates its belief in supporting peace and security efforts on the continent, he said.
El-Sisi announced the end of Egypt’s chairmanship of the COMESA, saying: “It is my pleasure to hand over the chairmanship of the COMESA to my brother, president of the Republic of Zambia.”
A new bureau of the COMESA Summit was also announced by the Egyptian leader, and will include Zambia as chair, Burundi as vice chair and Egypt as rapporteur.
El-Sisi arrived in Zambia on Wednesday on an official visit after ending his visit to Angola at the start of an African tour that also includes Mozambique.
He met Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema on the sidelines of the COMESA Summit.
The two leaders discussed ways to enhance bilateral relations, agreeing on the importance of activating mechanisms for cooperation and developing economic ties.
They stressed the need to reach the goals outlined in the African Development Agenda 2063.
The continent’s strategic agenda promotes inclusive and sustainable development as part of a pan-African drive for unity.
Separately, Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics revealed an annual increase in trade between Egypt and southern African countries — Zambia, Mozambique, and Angola — of 6.5 percent.
In 2022, Egyptian trade with the three countries grew to $381.9 million from 2021’s $358.6 million.