The Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) has received US$43 520 118,16 from the European Union to support regional integration and has invited its member states to apply for funds before the end of next month.
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The resources are provided through the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) under the Comesa Adjustment Facility’s Regional Integration Support Mechanism (RISM).
In a statement, Comesa said at least 13 countries were so far benefitting from the first tranche of the funds amounting to US$102 865 733,84 which was provided under the 9th EDF for the period 2008 to 2014.
The countries include Burundi, Djibouti, DR Congo, Comoros, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Four additional countries were expected to join in the 10th EDF running from 2014 to 2016, bringing the total number of eligible states to 17.
The objective of the RISM is to support member states to participate fully in the Comesa, East African Community, Tripartite Free Trade Areas and customs unions with minimum disturbance to public expenditure commitments.
The RISM also aims to enable the countries to implement economic reform programmes in the context of regional integration.
Distribution and disbursement of RISM funds are given against the preparation and implementation of well-defined regional integration indicators of individual member states.
“With these resources, the focus is now on designing programmes and utilising the resources in a manner that achieves the maximum impact,” Comesa secretary general Sindiso Ngwenya said.
It has been noted however, that member states have been experiencing problems in accessing and utilising the funds due to delays in submission of projects and provision of sources of verification.
“When the Comesa Adjustment Facility was initiated and later funded by the EU, the greatest concern was on the capacity to implement regional integration programmes at the national level,” said Ngwenya.
Ngwenya said such concerns had not only been in the absence in capacities to ensure that decisions are domesticated, but that programmes are designed and implemented.
“The regional integration process is not for the benefit of governments but the consumer, who is not bothered with policies, strategies or instruments in place. What the consumer wants is a wide choice of goods and services, at the right time, with the right quality,” said Ngwenya.
It was noted that new challenges are emerging related to absorption capacity, efficient and effective utilisation of resources and achievement of impact.