Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Opportunities for Investment still exist despite Economic Melt down - Ngwenya

The COMESA Secretary General Mr Sindiso Ngwenya has declared that the COMESA region still has a lot of investment opportunities, Economic Melt down not withstanding. He announced this at the just ended 2nd COMESA Investment held at the Fairmont Hotel, Cairo, Egypt Wednesday ( 25th March 2009) “Even though the world’s major economies like the United States, Europe and Japan may have entered into a recession ( variously referred to as the “economic meltdown”, “the great crush”, etc), as exemplified by factory closures, job losses, the credit crunch and the general financial crisis besetting the rich nations, with its spiral effect on developing and emerging Opportunities for Investment still exist despite Economic Melt down - Ngwenya markets, I would like to strongly believe that there are still numerous opportunities for attracting investment within the current economic climate” Mr Ngwenya told the 400 hundred delegates.

The Conference was organized by the COMESA Regional Investment Agency, under the patronage of Egyptian Ministry of Investment. The COMESA’s Secretary General Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya also addressed the meetings. It was attended by over 400 delegates from the region including The Sudanese Minister of Investment Dr George Buaring, Uganda’s Minister of State for Tourism, Trade and Industry Gagawala Nelson Wambuzi, Malawi’s Deputy Minister of Trade and industry Ellock Noatcha Banda, and Zambia’s Deputy Minister of Commerce Trade and Industry Richard Taima, The PTA bank President Dr Michael Gondwe also attended. Other COMESA institutions that were reprented are The Africa Trade Insurance agency (ATI) and the COMESA Clearing House

Mr Ngwenya pointed out that what is needed by individual countries and collectively, the COMESA region is to ensure that the right policies are in place so as to attract investment “ we need to put in place sound macro-economic policies that would not scare investors away. This means that we have to have the right foreign exchange policies, the right fiscal and monetary policies and an overall economic environment that is competitive enough to be able to attract investment to our region” said Mr Ngwenya.

He noted that the region is endowed with rich natural resources which remain largely unexploited. These include rich virgin land, soils, underground and surface water, minerals and energy resources, to mention only but a few. “ Hence, in spite of the current global recession, there are still great opportunities for investing in the COMESA region. There ample opportunities still for investing in such areas as infrastructure projects in roads, ports, rail and mass transit, sustainable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, carbon-capture and sequestration, and long-distance power transmission grids), pollution control, and water and sanitation. Other areas include the agriculture, mining and tourism sectors, as well as the telecommunication sector” Secretary General Ngwenya pointed out.

He informed the gathering that already, there is an increasing trend for companies based in one COMESA country to invest in another COMESA country or other neighbours. Adding that this is particularly the case in East Africa where we have seen that quite a sizable number of Kenyan firms have moved into Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda to invest in light manufacturing plants, agriculture and tourism. The same can be said of Mauritius whose companies have a presence in Madagascar and the Seychelles, as well as in Mozambique.

Mr Ngwenya further pointed out that Egypt in particular has been a big investor in a number of COMESA countries “In the case of Egypt, we have also seen a number of Egyptian firms taking a keen interest in countries south of the Sahara, including countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia. “A classical example is that of El Sweedy, cable and motor manufacturing company, which has set up a manufacturing plant in Zambia to take advantage of the abundant copper resources as its raw material” he pointed out.

Secretary General Ngwenya reminded the gathering of some achievements by COMESA including the COMESA established a Free Trade Area in the year 200 that has provided investors with a huge regional market. “Currently, there are 15 member States who belong to the FTA offering a market of over 400 million people and a combined regional GDP in excess of 18billion United States Dollars. By the end of December 2008, intra-regional trade amounted to well-over 7.6 billion USD. This is a market which is still growing, especially as we move closer to the declaration of a COMESA Customs Union later in the year” said Mr Ngwenya. “The regional market will be further consolidated once even a larger trading block is established based on the Tripartite Summit decision of Kampala October 2008, which envisions the establishment of one regional trading block comprising COMESA, the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC)” he added, noting that over time this will lead to: speed up the regional integration agenda; create a larger regional market ;open up the investment space; harmonise investment policies; and improve business environment in the region

Secretary General Ngwenya concluded by giving his interpretation of the Theme of the conference and the expected results.

“The theme for this Conference is: “Paving the road to COMESA.” I would like to understand this to mean that we should as a region, acting collectively, to create conditions that are conducive to attracting investment, both domestic and foreign, to the COMESA region. Literally speaking, we should be able to pave or construct a road that is visible to potential investors that they don’t have to go elsewhere. This no doubt is a major challenge that out region faces up to the present time” he concluded.

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