Press Releases

    SG/SM/9353
                                                                                                                     AFR/964
                                                                                                                     9 June 2004

    Secretary-General Stresses Importance of Regional Integration for Addressing Africa’s Daunting Development Challenges, in Message to Kampala Summit

    NEW YORK, 8 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the Ninth Summit of the COMESA Authority in Kampala, 8 June 2004:

    It gives me great pleasure to send my best wishes to this important summit meeting of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.

    The COMESA agenda is critical to our collective efforts to consolidate the foundations of a stable and prosperous Africa. The continent continues to face numerous daunting developmental challenges. Economic growth is still far below what is needed to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty by half by the year 2015. Adult literacy for the majority of sub-Saharan Africa stands well below the developing-country average. And the rising incidence of AIDS is dramatically reducing average life expectancy.

    Effective regional integration has a major role to play in helping African countries address these and other common concerns. The formation of the Customs Union this year will be a milestone, and should help to increase trade, stimulate economic growth, attract foreign direct investment and enable domestic producers to build up their capacities. By this and other steps, COMESA’s member States have consistently shown their commitment to regional integration in areas ranging from trade and industry to agriculture, infrastructure, investment and the development of their natural and human resources. But we have not yet seen the increase in intra-African trade that might have been expected, since most African countries have similar production structures. Diversification of these production structures remains a key objective.

    The experience of societies in the developed world shows that the process of market integration can also serve as a basis for the consolidation of peace and security. COMESA is making progress in this regard, in particular in the Great Lakes region. I also urge you to give your full support to the African Union’s new Peace and Security Council, which is another important element in efforts to promote stability and good governance, which are crucial to ending the devastating conflicts that have exacerbated acute poverty levels and created massive internal displacements of people all over Africa for decades.

    These challenges will engage all your good judgement and leadership. The United Nations, including the Economic Commission for Africa, will continue to be your willing partner. In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful summit.

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