Thursday, September 4, 2008

COMESA extends project funding to nonmember countries

By Michael Malakata , IDG News Service , 08/26/2008

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has extended incubator-project funding to nonmember countries, said Claes Rosvall, COMESA program manager for the Regional ICT Support Program, in an interview Tuesday.

"Tanzania, which is not a member of COMESA, is now a beneficiary of the incubator project, while some COMESA member countries are not beneficiaries," Rosvall said.

Initially, COMESA said it would only provide grants to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in eight African member countries -- including Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe -- in order to help those SMEs integrate ICT into daily business operations.

Rosvall said, however, that very few organizations have shown interest in applying for the grants. So far, only Burundi, Zambia and Zimbabwe have seen SMEs apply, he noted.

The grants are the first to be distributed to incubator projects following COMESA's undertaking of a regional ICT regulatory and policy harmonization program aimed at removing constraints to ICT usage among COMESA member countries.

The incubator projects will be funded through a grant scheme under the Regional ICT Support Program, which is being financed by the European Development Fund. So far, the fund has provided COMESA with €20 million (US$29.5 million) to be used over a period of three years for the incubator projects and harmonization program.