ECA – The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa held today a validation meeting on the study on Assessing the Feasibility of Establishing and Managing a Common Agro-Industrial Park between Zambia and Zimbabwe. ECA is supporting this initiative as part of technical assistance towards accelerating regional cooperation and development.
According to COMSTAT data, “agriculture contributes about 40 percent to the regional GDP of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and about 70 percent of the regional population directly draw their livelihood through employment and sustenance from the sector”.
In his welcoming remarks, ECA’s Sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa Acting Director, Sizo Mhlanga said the agricultural sector was key to regional socio-economic development and presented member States with opportunities to pursue agricultural development-led industrialization through the deepening of commodity value chains and the development of linkages. Furthermore, the agro-processing sector, had the greatest potential to contribute to inclusive growth, sustainable economic transformation and job creation. “This meeting is momentous in the industrialization and regional integration journey in Southern Africa”. He noted.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Rethabile Maluke, Chair of the 26th Inter-Governmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts (ICSOE) of Southern Africa from the Kingdom of Lesotho commended ECA’s commitment towards regional development anchored on a strong industrial base. She also saluted the efforts by the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe in taking the lead in strengthening economic integration through the development of a cross border agro-industrial park to benefit from the rich and diverse agricultural base in the two member States.
She also pointed out that while the two Governments created a conducive business environment, it was primarily the private sector which would seize the emergent business opportunities from the planned agro-industrial park. She thus called on the private sector to take advantage of the industrial cooperation agreement between the two member States, “to build linkages through value addition and the expansion of value chains.”.
The Validation Meeting was organized collaboratively with the COMESA Secretariat. The Director, Industry and Agriculture, Ms. Providence Mavubi informed the meeting that COMESA was facilitating the Joint Industrialization programme between Zambia and Zimbabwe whose objectives were, “to harness comparative advantage from the diverse natural resources and synergies in resource utilization, improve competitiveness and reap benefits of economies of scale of the two countries. Ultimately, the goal was to promote regional industrialization and integration”. She said.
Representatives from the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe reported on progress on the joint agro-industrial park project and emphasised how the project was key to addressing poverty, hunger, unemployment and inequality.
Mrs. Spiwe Nyamatore, Deputy Director, Zimbabwe Ministry of Industry and Commerce informed the meeting that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two countries provided the foundation for the agro-industrial park initiative. She further advised that, Zimbabwes National Development Plans prioritized industrialization as an engine for driving economic development and growth through value chains and the park was a key component in this endeavour.
Mr. Paul Lupunga, Acting Permanent Secretary, Zambia Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry pointed out that the common Agro-industrial park was a culmination of efforts by the COMESA Secretariat to advance the regional industrialization agenda. He stressed, “I wish to commend the COMESA Secretariat for facilitating the signing of the Zambia – Zimbabwe Joint Industrialisation MoU by our Ministers of Commerce, Trade and Industry on March 18th, 2021, including the support received from ECA, for the feasibility study”.
All key note speakers and presenters underscored that the validation meeting would not only help Zambia and Zimbabwe realise the dream of a viable agro-industrial park but also provide lessons for other member States. They called for the translation of the recommendations by the consultant into practical tools for taking the project forward.