THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member states should use the Customs Union as a means for enhancing Science, Technology and Innovations in the region.
Commerce, Trade and Industry Permanent Secretary Stephen Mwansa said the focus would erase members' fears that a Customs Union would result in loss of national industries.
Speaking during the 28th meeting of Trade and Customs Committee (TCC) in Lusaka yesterday Mr Mwansa said despite the diversity of the membership of COMESA, the region had succeeded in forging ahead with integration agenda.
"After attaining the Free Trade Area (FTA) in 2000, the region is in the process of operationalising the Customs Union," Mr Mwansa said.
He said the liberalisation of trade in the region had seen intra-COMESA trade rising from US$3 billion to $17.3 billion from 2000 to 2010 respectively.
Apart from the rise in trade, Mr Mwansa said investors expressed interest in setting foot in the COMESA given its huge space provided by the FTA.
He said the region had registered success and made achievements in integrating markets among its members despite the multitude of economic challenges.
Mr Mwansa said a number of institutions were set up to facilitate production and movement of goods within the region.
"Our focus is now to consolidate the successes and achievements that we have so far made and move to higher levels of integration, which in this case is attaining a Customs Union," he said.
Mr Mwansa said another imperative issue was the need for the economies to integrate into the wide world economy.
The permanent secretary said there was need to address the social challenges facing the region to achieve significant growth and development in the COMESA region.
He said the agenda which was before member States sought to intensify their efforts in harmonising policies, reducing the business transactions costs, increasing productivity and competiveness, to put the region on a sustainable growth path.
Mr Mwansa said the meeting would contribute to the regions' vision of becoming fully integrated and internationally competitive with free movement of goods and services for prosperity of all the people of the region.
"I have no doubt that the meeting will come out with practical tangible recommendations which will facilitate and enable COMESA to attain its ambition of creating a Customs Union in the near future," The permanent secretary said.