Member states of the Common Market of East and Southern Africa (COMESA) have resolved to fast-track the implementation of joint infrastructure projects in railways, energy, roads and ICT to boost regional development.
This was contained in the final statement issued on Saturday at the end of the 16th COMESA Summit of Heads of State and Government in Kampala.
The nine-day event was held at the Speke Resort Munyonyo under the theme: "Enhancing intra-COMESA trade through micro, small and medium enterprise development."
Also, the COMESA Infrastructure Fund located in Mauritius is to prepare a memorandum to raise capital for infrastructure projects in conjunction with the regional PTA Bank, according to the statement.
COMESA is a regional grouping of 19 African countries, with a potential market of over 400 million people and a combined GDP of $799 billion by 2010, making it one of the biggest African trading blocs.
African leaders from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi, Comoros, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Swaziland, Rwanda, Burundi, Seychelles, Egypt and the African Union attended the summit.
The summit also resolved that in order to enhance participation of MSMEs in the intra-COMESA trade, focus should be made on participation of youth and women.
PTA Bank and regional financial institutions were urged to provide affordable financing to women entrepreneurs considering the role women play in agriculture and economies of the COMESA member states.
The minister of trade, industry and cooperatives, Amelia Kyambadde who is also the chairperson of the COMESA Council of Ministers, delivered the final communication at the end of the conference.
Last year's COMESA annual report indicates that intra-COMESA trade has increased to US$18.4 billion by last year, signifying a recovery from 2009 when trade was US$12.7 billion due to the global economic recession.
COMESA member states were called on to implement programmes that aim to equip MSMEs with entrepreneurial and management skills.
Besides, the member stated called for the elimination of non-tariff barriers which are constraining intra-regional trade, as well as providing credit financing to MSMEs at affordable and accessible rates.