Addressing the 14th COMESA summit of Heads of State and Government which opened at Ezulwini in Swaziland on Tuesday, President Kibaki emphasized that the people of Sudan should be encouraged to play their rightful role in the community of nations.
“It is my wish that the international community would appreciate the delicate situation of Sudan and act proactively. We should not isolate the people of Sudan,” President Kibaki said.
Noting that the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) is at a critical stage, the President also called on all COMESA member states to support and encourage the people of Sudan to resolve the outstanding issues in the CPA amicably as they prepare to hold a referendum in January next year.
Said the President: “A number of important milestones including the issues of border demarcation, among others have not yet been addressed.”
The Head of State, however, applauded the Sudan leaders for agreeing to work together for a peaceful and prosperous country, saying so far positive achievements have been realized, most notably being the recent general elections.
On volatile peace and security in the Horn of Africa, President Kibaki urged COMESA members to play a more active role in support of AU and IGAD’s efforts to restore peace in Somalia.
The President pointed out that the lack of a reliable and stable government in Somalia has immensely contributed to the growth of insurgent militant groups in as well as the emergence of piracy along the Indian Ocean coastline.
In this regard, President Kibaki commended the recent decisions taken by the IGAD member states both in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and in Kampala, Uganda to give priority to the Somalia peace and security issues.
The President stressed that peace and security should be given priority in the region particularly this time when Africa commemorates the year of peace and security.
“As we look ahead, we need to give priority to peace and security as a cornerstone for development and our regional integration endeavours,” he said.
Underlining the importance infrastructure in regional development, President Kibaki said Kenya is ready to host the regional infrastructure conference that will mobilize resources for the development of the Northern and Central Corridors.
The President said his Government is already working with the COMESA secretariat to ensure that the important regional infrastructure conference scheduled to be held in Nairobi in October this year succeeds.
“Following the successful North-South Corridor Infrastructure Conference held in Lusaka in April last year, a second conference of its kind for the Northern and Central Corridors will be held in my country in October this year,” President Kibaki said.
President Kibaki expressed satisfaction that COMESA is working in harmony with SADC and the EAC and has come up with priority investment projects to address the challenges the region faces in infrastructure, energy, transport and telecommunications that has affected the region’s competitiveness due to the high cost of doing business.
The Head of State said his Government will also continue to support the efforts by the EAC, COMESA and SADC to pursue the attainment of a grand Tripartite Free Trade Area, as the region works towards a United Africa.
President Kibaki said Kenya takes pride in having remained a dedicated member of COMESA from the time of its formation as a Preferential Trade Area to the present day.
He reaffirmed Kenya’s commitment to giving impetus to the customs union process by implementing COMESA programmes and giving the necessary support to the Secretary General and his team.
“We look forward to increased and shared prosperity for our region,” the Head of State said.
Saying the theme of this year’s COMESA summit ‘Harnessing Science and Technology for Development’ is relevant to the region’s development endeavours, the President said his Government is aware of the critical role of science and technology in economic growth and has implemented a wide range of measures intended to promote science and technology.
President Kibaki pointed out that one sector in which science and technology has played a key role in generating employment and wealth as well as reducing the cost of doing business in Kenya is the Information and Communication Technology sector.
In this connection, the President cited the mobile telephony money transfer “M-Pesa” that currently has over 10 million users as an example of innovations developed by Kenyans that has enabled the unbanked in the country to conduct financial transactions in the rural and urban areas using mobile telephones.
“These transactions include money transfer, payment of utility bills and mobile banking, just to name a few,” the President said.
President Kibaki added that the Kenyan experience has demonstrated that scientific and technological innovations can contribute enormously to national development.
He, therefore, said COMESA member states must mainstream science and technology especially in agricultural and industrial production for rapid and sustainable economic development, saying more investment is required in technology related to infrastructure for water and irrigation.
Said President Kibaki: “We can also do so by adopting new and modern methods of farming, including improving our traditional agriculture through innovations such as modern organic farming. It is also critical that we develop our own industries for producing fertilizer and other agricultural inputs.”
The President, at the same time, reported to the summit that Kenya recently launched the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy and signed the comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme under COMESA that are geared towards boosting agricultural production.
“I wish to propose that we commit ourselves to report progress made and the tangible impacts that have resulted from this programme in our next summit in Malawi,” President Kibaki said.
During the occasion, King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Swaziland took over the chairmanship of COMESA from Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.
In his acceptance speech, King Mswati urged COMESA member states to work together in coming up with practical solutions to address the economic challenges facing the region.
The King emphasised that COMESA member states should frequently exchange scientific and technological ideas with a view to boosting agricultural production and promoting regional development.
On his part, President Mugabe said COMESA member states must take deliberate steps to make the COMESA Customs Union deliver benefits to their respective citizens.
“It is our pledge to all people of the region that we will deliver a life free of strife and ensure good health, decent housing and good roads,” President Mugabe.
Other speakers included Malawi’s President Bingu Wa Mutharika who assumed the Vice-Chairmanship of COMESA, Seychelles’ Vice-President Danny Faure, African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping and World Trade Organisation Director General Pascal Lamy among others.