1 November 2017

East Africa: End of Donor Grants to Eat Into Comesa Annual Budget

Conclusion of some donor grants which have been supporting the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) is likely to affect operations next year.

The regional bloc budget for 2018 will be less by $10 million (Shs36.5 billion).This was revealed during the opening of the 37th meeting of the Committee on Administration and Budgetary matters last week held in Lusaka, Zambia.

Mr Sindiso Ndema Ngwenya, the Secretary General, said: "The annual budget will decrease from $42 million (Shs153.2 billion) in 2017 to $32 million (Shs116.8 billion) for 2018. This translates into a 30 per cent reduction."

Member states are expected to contribute $16.7 million (Shs60.5 billion) while cooperating partners are expected to provide $15.6 million (Shs5.6 billion).

Affected programmes

Among the Comesa agencies that will be affected are the Regional Investment Agency (RIA), the Federation of Women in Business (FEMCOM) and the Comesa Competition Commission.

Mr Ngwenya urged member states to develop measures to increase their financial contribution to the budget.

He noted: "At some point, our cooperating partners will naturally expect Comesa member states to assume a greater share of funding of the Comesa work programme."

To achieve this, Mr Ngwenya called for the speedy implementation of agreed Comesa instruments by member states.

The current levels of production and infrastructure development were affecting job creation and intra-Comesa trade.

"Comesa may not achieve the desired development milestones in 2020 at this low implementation level," he said.

Ms Cheryl Anderson, the acting assistant administrator USAID, said they would be working with a leaner budget for the coming years and that may affect the support to their regional offices.

"USAID will be more geared towards results and impact for the foreign assistance it is providing," Ms Anderson said.

Therefore, Comesa has to make the best out of the new Regional Development Objective Grant Agreement that was signed in September 2016.

Uganda's commissioner external trade, Mr Silver Ojakol, responding to the budget reduction, said: "The mentioned departments to be affected like the Comesa investment work with member country departments like Uganda Investment Authority [UIA]. But we are not yet sure whether UIA will be affected."

Way forward

The committee will consider the management of human resources, review the current (2017) and previous (2016) performance and the 2018 work programme and budget for the Comesa Secretariat, institutions and agencies.

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