Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe on Sunday said Africa would have long been industrialised if men emulated women in not being wasteful with resources.
He said while women worried more about taking their children to school, most African men were preoccupied with buying flashy cars and fancy suits.
Contributing to the discussion at the Comesa Summit, President Mugabe said African women were good at organising themselves into groups to form small to medium-scale enterprises.
“While it’s true that there is extravagance in Africa in utilising resources, it’s the male species that is extravagant.
“Females are absolutely careful. If they (women) were men, we would have long industrialised,” said the President to applause from the delegates.
He said during drought and economic challenges “women always make sure they provide for their families, but men are different”.
President Mugabe said he would have been disappointed if the summit, whose theme is “Enhancing Intra-Comesa Trade Through Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development” ended without discussing ways to assist women technically and financially to uplift their businesses.
He said the summit should find ways of linking up women who would have formed small to medium-scale enterprises with big businesses and ensure their finances were safe.
“We men are very bad. We buy Mercedes Benz, suits, shining portfolios and compete to see who has the most recent model of a car. Women don’t speak that language. They ask themselves, are my children going to school?”
The President bemoaned the culture by most men of trying to get rich quick. He said it was not surprising that most businesses owned by men crumbled within a short space of time while others were forced into liquidation.
“So, when we talk about extravagance, let us say African men, our own species, maybe that’s how we were born,” said President Mugabe.
“We don’t want to work together. At home we have educated men, but they would rather work for Europeans rather than come together and form their own mining companies so that we don’t repatriate our resources.
“I wish the culture women have could be the culture that men have.”
Mugabe informed the summit that he brought Small to Me-dium Scale Enterprises and Co-operatives Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni so that she could benefit from the deliberations at the meeting.
Incoming Comesa Authority chairperson, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni concurred with President Mugabe.
"President Mugabe has made a good point that women are not wasteful,” he said."Maybe we touched too many things. We should concentrate on the theme."
There was a lighter moment when Zimbabwean journalist Kizito Sikuka won the 2012 Comesa (print category) Media Award and before receiving his prize, rushed to shake hands with President Mugabe.
The 16th Summit of the Comesa Heads of State and Government opened yesterday with President Museveni expressing gratitude that Comesa, the East African Community and Sadc were engaged with one another under tripartite efforts to further develop the continent.
Reports said the Tripartite Free Trade Area to be created by these three regional groupings would account for half the membership of the African Union.
The 26 countries that constitute the planned Tripartite FTA have a combined population of about 565 million and a Gross Domestic Product of US$1,1 trillion.
President Museveni, who called on Comesa to work towards economic integration, said political integration at the continental level was proving to be unrealistic.Several Heads of State and Government from East and Southern Africa, including President Mugabe are attending the summit.
Museveni said his country had not joined Sadc because from the beginning, the regional grouping had not made its political integration dimension explicit.
"Comesa, on the other hand, right from the beginning, aimed at economic integration because political integration at the continental level is quite unrealistic,” he said.
"Trade, however, is not only realistic but necessary. That is why Uganda never joined Sadc when it was formed by our fellow freedom fighters that had been active in the anti-colonial struggle."
We only saw two dimensions, the political and economic. Since Sadc did not make the political integration dimension explicit, we did not see the need to duplicate the trading arrangement mechanism.
"I am glad that now Comesa, EAC and Sadc are engaged with one another under tripartite efforts."
Outgoing chairperson of the Comesa Authority, Malawian President Joyce Banda revealed that intra-Comesa trade had grown from US$3,1 billion in the year 2000 to US$18,4 billion in 2011.
She said intra-regional trade, as a percentage of global trade had remained static at less than 10 percent.
Banda said that for the first time in 30 years the region had experienced consistent and sustained annual average growth rates of 5,4%.
She said the number of people living in absolute poverty in the region remained high and "we are unlikely to meet the targets that we set for ourselves under the Millennium Development Goals."
Banda said it was time that the region agreed on a target of increasing intra-Comesa trade from the current average of 10 percent in 2011 to 20 percent by 2017.
She said in volume terms, intra-Comesa trade would increase from US$ 18,4 billion in 2011 to US$42 billion in 2017.