President Mnangagwa leaves Harare today for Lusaka, Zambia where he will attend the 20th Summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).

Heads of State and Government from the regional bloc’s 19 member states are expected to attend the summit, which ends tomorrow and is being held under the theme “Comesa: Towards Digital Economic Integration.”

The theme rallies member states towards the full adoption of digital technologies to establish seamless processes across the Comesa region to enable the ease of doing business and to enhance regional integration using information and communication technologies.

Comesa is leading the way in putting in place instruments of Digital Free Trade Area (DFTA), a first for Africa that incorporates e-trade, e-logistics and e-legislation to minimise the impact of physical barriers on its member States.

The programme of the summit at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in the Zambian capital started on Monday last week with meetings of the grouping’s policy organs. The Council of Ministers met on Saturday and Sunday.

They welcomed the peace deal reached between Ethiopia and Eritrea that ended a 20-year conflict between the two Comesa member states. They “congratulated the leaders of the two states for demonstrating that the African continent can resolve its own problems without external interference or prodding,” according to a statement from Comesa on Monday.

The ministers meeting coincided with a return visit by the President of Eritrea Mr Isaias Afwerki to Ethiopia, days after Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Mr Abiy Ahmed had made his first visit to Eritrea and agreed to end the war that had killed many people from both sides.

Ethiopia and Eritrea were involved in a border dispute between 1998 and 2000 but the neighbours only recently agreed to restore the diplomatic, trade and transportation links that had been cut during that war.

Key issues on the summit agenda include the consideration of membership to Comesa by Tunisia and Somalia. Negotiations for their admission were concluded a few months ago.

However, the formal acceptance of Somalia required the endorsement of the 38th Comesa Council of Ministers meeting and subsequent approval by the Heads of State Assembly. Tunisia was endorsed in November last year.

Another highlight will be the appointment of a new Comesa secretary general to replace Mr Sindiso Ngwenya, a Zimbabwean who has held that position since May 2008.

Zambia’s Vice President, Mrs Inonge Wina, speaking at the opening of the 16th meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs praised Mr Ngwenya for steering the regional body over the past decade.

“When he was appointed as Secretary General our programme on peace and security was operating with three programmes and a relatively small budget,” she said.

“Through his tenure, he has overseen an increase in cooperating partners and programmes. He oversaw the development and implementation of the Comesa conflict early warning system, as well as a programme on democracy including the professional observation of over 20 elections.”