By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
AS the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) celebrates its 25th anniversary today from the Preferential Trade Area (PTA) in 1994, it will fathom many successes scored even in turbulent times.
The regional body will also dissect some of the pitfalls and also look at how it will improve the development trajectory.
Zambia, like many other member-states, has benefitted from the trading bloc, which has scored milestones in regional integration.
Given the large market, membership to the regional bloc has steadily grown to 21, thus bringing together a third of Africa to one common market.
Currently, COMESA spans Northern Africa from Tunisia through Eastern, Central and Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean Island States.
COMESA Secretary-General, Chileshe Kapwepwe, described the 25-year milestone as worthy of celebrating, given the achievements that regional integration has brought forth to member-states.
She highlighted some of COMESA’s main achievements as the deepening of intra-COMESA trade to US$10.3 billion by the end of last year when the Free Trade Area was established from US$3.1 billion in 2000.
“Every celebration must have a purpose. For us in COMESA, we are celebrating the positive impact that our programmes have had on the lives of the people in our region since the organisation was established,” Ms Kapwepwe said.
The trading bloc is implementing a number of projects among its member-states.
For example, COMESA is implementing projects in Zambia with support from the Zambian government and donors such as the European Union (EU) including energy and construction among others.
The bloc is also leading the implementation of the US$235 million Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya (ZTK) power interconnection project meant to address energy constraints in the region.
Just like Zambia, most COMESA member-states are experiencing power deficit due to adverse weather patterns caused by climate change. Zambia, for instance, is current experiencing an electricity deficit of more than 800 megawatts.
The implementation of ZTK power interconnection project therefore is meant to facilitate trading in electricity in the region and promote power systems stability.
ZTK will effectively connect the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) with the East African Power Pool (EAPP).
By interconnecting the EAPP and SAPP grids, it will create the largest power pool on the continent and will be an essential component of the North-South (Cape to Cairo) power transmission corridor.
It will have a capacity of 500MW, upgradable to 2, 000MW, depending on power demand.
Government believes that the project is essential to fighting climate change.
The ZTK project once completed will assist meet the immediate and future power demand in the region, Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister, Christopher Yaluma, said this week at the opening of the COMESA Intergovernmental Committee Meeting.
Mr Yaluma called for speedy implementation of regional infrastructure programmes in energy and transport sectors to accelerating economic integration.
“In the area of strengthening cooperation in energy with the key objective of enhancing energy trade, the ZTK power interconnector holds immense potential in addressing energy constraints in the region,” Mr Yaluma said.
COMESA Climate Change Advisor, Mclay Kanyangarara, believes that climate change must be taken seriously by everyone.
Dr Kanyangarara called on all stakeholders in Zambia to join the fight against climate change.
He has commended the Zambian government for its commitment and efforts to mitigate against climate change.
Zambia needs about US$50 billion for investing in adaptation and mitigation projects against climate change.
Dr Kanyangarara said Government’s commitment to pledge US$20 billion out of the US$50 billion needed to combat climate change was ambitious and commendable.
“This is a lot of money for a country like Zambia, and I think Government has been very generous. Of that US$50 billion, Government has pledged to put US$20 billion that is very ambitious because that is 40 percent contribution.
“In Africa, the average contribution from governments is about 20 percent, so Zambia has pledged double and that shows a very high level of commitment by the government,” he said.
To improve the current electricity deficit, Dr Kanyangarara suggested that Zambia should set up floating solar panels on Lake Kariba to expand electricity generation using latest technology, thereby mitigating against climate change.
He said introducing gigantic solar collectors or solar panels will allow Zambia generate more electricity compared from what was being produced using hydro.
Dr Kanayangarara said this method, which is immune to drought, will work alongside hydro power generation.
During drought, he explained, water turbines at the Kariba Dam can be shutdown and use solar panels for electricity generation.
Dr Kanayangarara said Zambia can generate surplus power during the day when the sun is up and use this to break down the water into hydrogen and oxygen.
“Your hydrogen and oxygen that had now used solar energy to break up the water that is during the day now keep the hydrogen, pump it, liquidify and compress it.
“Keep it as liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen during the day. You can have big tanks of these. In the night when the sun goes down, you can burn that hydrogen into oxygen. You can now extend, because we need a lot of power in Zambia, let us put our reticulation,” he said.
Dr Kanayangarara said with this method which would produce surplus of electricity, Zambian could now introduce latest technology on the market such as electric vehicles.
The Zambian government is however aware about climate change and is implementing projects to mitigate it.
Government is implementing a project dubbed Transforming Landscapes for Resilience and Development (TRALARD) to be financed by the World Bank. The project costs US$100 million.
National Development Planning Minister Alexander Chiteme, indicates that the successful implementation of the pilot programme for climate resilience has prompted scaling up of climate change projects in 16 districts of Luapula, Muchinga and Northern provinces.
Mr Chiteme said following this capital injection by the World Bank, the green climate fund is also prepared to add another US$75 million which will see Government cover all districts in Luapula, Muchinga and Northern provinces.
“Eastern Province is also a beneficiary of Government’s efforts to spread climate change interventions across the country.
“In 2017, my ministry, sourced US$32.80 million from the World Bank and the bio carbon fund for the implementation of the Zambia integrated forest landscape project (ZIFLP),” he said.
Mr Chiteme said the project aims to reduce deforestation and unsustainable agricultural expansion; whilst promoting wildlife development.
Climate change is one of the most complex issues the world is facing today.
It involves many dimensions – science, economics, society, politics and moral and ethical questions – and is a global problem, felt on local scales, that will be around for decades and centuries to come.
Over the years, COMESA has blossomed through various programmes with its secretariat in Lusaka.
With such a steadfast rise, COMESA promises to be one of the most successful regional blocs but requires fervent support from member-states.
COMESA was initially established in 1981 as the Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa (PTA), within the framework of the Organisation of African Unity’s (OAU) Lagos Plan of Action and the Final Act of Lagos.
The PTA transformed into COMESA in 1994. The PTA was established to take advantage of a larger market size, to share the region’s common heritage and destiny and to allow for greater social and economic co-operation. COMESA is one of the eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs) recognised by the African Union.
The transformation into COMESA, saw the regional bloc move with global trends in all the programmes and more prosperity is expected, even in the face of a number of challenges, which are also being experienced at global level.