The President delivered the message on Tuesday 23rd November 2021 as he virtually joined other leaders from across the African continent for the 21st Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Heads of State and Government Summit, to discuss economic integration priority issues and review the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region.
The previous meeting was held in 2018 in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.
Kagame said that COMESA did not lose sight of its agenda during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to implement important trade facilitation programs.
He further stated that the approval of the COMESA Online Trade Portal last year by the Council of Ministers ‘exemplifies this continuity’.
“While this is a first step towards integrating digital technologies in trade, our efforts should not end here. We need to ensure that our citizens have access to these tools,” Kagame noted.
The President called on countries to work together for the benefits of citizens and made suggestions on how it can be achieved.
“First, we must foster digital literacy. In Rwanda, we are prioritising digital economic integration and working to achieve a 60% digital literacy rate for adults by 2024,” he said.
Kagame highlighted that combined efforts of COMESA partner states can act as catalysts for the continent’s digital integration.
“Second, we need to implement policies in the COMESA bloc that create affordable, transparent, and secure platforms for digital cross-border payments by small- and medium-sized enterprises. The COMESA Business Council, through its Digital Financial Inclusion Program, has already started this work, and they have our support,” he said.
“Youth-led enterprises account for many businesses on our continent, and we cannot afford to leave them behind. Lastly, Africa’s integration agenda will be achieved by continuing to put stability at the forefront of our continent’s growth and development,” Kagame added.
He also welcomed the report of the 17th meeting of the COMESA Ministers of Foreign Affairs held earlier this month and reiterated Rwanda’s commitment to work with partners in COMESA to maximise the opportunities for trade and prosperity in the region.
COMESA is the largest regional economic organization in Africa, with 21 member states including Burundi, DRC, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.