PM Tsvangirai said this while officially opening the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Council of Ministers ahead of the launch of the Customs Union on Sunday.
He said smaller economies in Africa needed to be consolidated into a common regional or continental market. Market integration would reduce dependence on small and individualised markets, he said.
“Our countries need deeper levels of integration particularly at this time when the global recession is on the rampage and affecting different countries in different ways,” he said.
“The need for market integration as a way of creating and maintaining bigger markets cannot be overemphasised.”
“If large economies in America and Europe are seeking bigger markets by fostering regional integration, the smaller economies of Africa have an even greater need to come together in a regional and subsequently continental common market.”
The launch of the Customs Union on Sunday will be a key milestone in the development of the Comesa region.
It is expected to give greater impetus to enhancing intra-regional trade. PM Tsvangirai noted intra-Africa trade represented less than 5 percent of total trade and the Comesa arrangement should lay the foundation for accelerated growth.
He challenged member states to “faithfully and religiously” implement the Customs Union.
“We have agreed on timetables for the implementation of various integration measures and it is essential that we complete this process on time if our people are going to enjoy genuine and sustainable development in the foreseeable future.”
The Prime Minister also urged Comesa countries to undertake policy reforms and institute measures necessary to encourage investment in the region while member countries crafted national policies that would complement the regional policies.
He said Zimbabwe, which will assume the chairmanship of Comesa, was prepared to play its part by implementing the regional integration agenda.
PM Tsvangirai added the formation of the inclusive Government laid the foundation to rebuild the economy and, as such, Comesa provided a firm framework within which such rebuilding can take place.
“Top priority will be the opportunities presented to us in the Comesa region because of the favourable trading terms and conditions developed by the organisation over the past decade,” he said.
With few days before the launch of the Comesa Union, other regions have already agreed to free trade.
These include the Pacific Region where Asian Pacific Economic Co-operation in being consolidated, the Americas under the North America Free Trade Area, the MERCOSUR group, Europe under the European Union and free trade area between Europe and Mediterranean region.
The Prime Minister will officially open the Comesa Business Forum today. The forum will focus on harnessing regional market opportunities and investment climate and competitiveness and a joint ministerial and business dialogue.
Other issues to be covered include financing of investment, delivering infrastructure, engaging new partners of Comesa from the East, AGOA, women in business and the role of business in branding Africa, in general and Comesa in particular.