NAIROBI – President Yoweri Museveni has urged countries under COMESA to tackle under-production and under-consumption to spur economic transformation.
“Africa is so rich and yet so poor. There are a number of bottlenecks that we need to deal with including market integration, infrastructures such as roads and electricity and other cost pushers,” he said.
The President was on Wednesday speaking during the Presidential Public-Private Roundtable on what stimuli are available to make Africa prosper and setting the tone on the Continental Free Trade Area opportunities for Africa, the future of COMESA, TFTA and AfCFTA. This was shortly after President Uhuru Kenyatta officially opened the Source 21 COMESA International Trade Fair and High-Level Business summit currently taking place at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi.
The President emphasized that Africa’s fragmented market must be integrated to encourage increased production and consumption of its goods and services.
He gave an example of China with an internal market population of 1.3 billion people but still fighting of more external markets while COMESA’s market is still constrained. He urged leaders to address cost pushers such as infrastructure including transportation, electricity, human resource development, cost of money and politics including avoiding politics of identity if they are to succeed.
The President used the example of milk production and consumption in Uganda saying while Milk production has improved, Ugandans are not consuming enough. According to the President, Uganda was producing 200 million liters in 1986 but it has now increased to 2.2 billion liters.
He said milk consumption was 18 liters per capita per annum but it has gone up to 60 liters per capita per annum. This, however, is still below the recommended 200 liters per person per annum by World Health Organisation to improve teeth and bone health.
The President said these challenges are part of the reason Africa is not fully exploiting the AGOA opportunities offered by the United States of America to export over 6500 products tax-free and quota free.
The Heads of State included H.E Paramasivum Pillay Vyapoory, President of the Republic of Mauritius, H.E Edgar Lungu, President of Zambia, President Yoweri Museveni and host President Uhuru Kenya.
The host President Uhuru Kenya urged member states to grow their economies through trade and improve the lives of their people.
“We need to come up with innovative and practical strategies to promote industrialization and enhance trade in our region,” he said during the opening ceremony.