Libya joins COMESA

Jun 03, 2005 02:00 AM

Libya has joined the Common Market for Eastern and Southern (COMESA), becoming the twentieth member. Its long-time bid to join, which was cleared by the COMESA Heads of State and Government met speedy approval as it shares a common border with a COMESA member state, one of the criteria for entry. The North African Arab nation borders Egypt, which is a COMESA member.
Minutes after he assumed the chairmanship of the regional grouping, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, announced the admission of Libya.
"At this juncture I would like to welcome the Great Socialist Libyan Jamahiriya to the COMESA Family," Kagame who took over the chair from Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, said.

Earlier, the Minister of Commerce, Trade, Investment Promotion, Tourism and Industry Prof. Manasseh Nshuti had told that the issue of the North African country had been deliberated upon by the Council of Ministers. However, Minister Nshuti said it was impossible to admit Ivory Coast in the regional block because the West African Cocoa-producing nation does not border any COMESA member.
"The rule is that you must share a common border with a COMESA member to qualify," said Nshuti. He however said, it could have access to some COMESA structures such as the Insurance Company and the Preferential Trade Area (PTA) bank.

Mweusi Karake, the Information Officer at the COMESA Secretariat in Lusaka, Zambia, added: "Maybe as time goes by and more members come in, COMESA frontiers will extend as far as Ivory Coasta -- who knows?"
Meanwhile, Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo attended the COMESA 10th Heads of State and Government Summit as an observer. But Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi did not attend the two-day Summit to witness his country's admission to the economic block as had earlier been anticipated.

Col. Gaddafi has been an advocate of a “United States of Africa”. Libya, which is mostly desert, brings into the grouping a population of about 6 mm people -- an aspect that will take the COMESA population to about 386mm -- and a 1.77 mm sq km area.
The Arab country is one of the leading producers of crude oil, petroleum products and natural gas; some of the resources which COMESA grouping needs if it is to grow as an economic power house on the continent. The block is grappling with a marked fall in energy generation in almost every member state.

A recent UN Report indicates that the former Roman colony has one of the highest life expectancy of 71 years (men), 75 years (women). Sources in the COMESA Secretariat said Libya had applied three years ago "but the region could not admit it before, due to the bad relationship it (Libya) had with the US and Europe".
"Now that Libya's diplomatic relations with the West has tremendously improved, there is no cause for further delays. At this time, its entry would not disrupt COMESA's relations with anybody," the source told.

The Arabic-speaking country's move to join COMESA becomes one of Tripoli's achievements following an end to over a decade of international isolation largely due to a 1998 bombing of a PanAm plane above the Scottish town of Lockerbie.
Tripoli took responsibility of the incident in 2003, and a year later it renounced the production of weapons of mass destruction, a declaration that has greatly boosted its international image.

Source: The New Times
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