I am pleased to be joining you today in this timely discussion about the use of digital technologies to foster regional integration.

I congratulate His Excellency President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for taking over as Chairperson of the COMESA Authority.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the outgoing Chairperson, His Excellency President Andry Rajoelina, for his role in advancing the organization’s objectives.

Indeed, COMESA did not lose sight of its agenda during the Covid-19 pandemic and continues to implement important trade facilitation programs.

The approval of the COMESA Online Trade Portal last year by the Council of Ministers exemplifies this continuity.

While this is a first step towards integrating digital technologies in trade, our efforts should not end here.

We need to ensure that our citizens have access to these tools.

Allow me to make a few suggestions on how we can work together.

First, we must foster digital literacy.

In Rwanda, we are prioritising digital economic integration and working to achieve a 60% digital literacy rate for adults by 2024.

The combined efforts of COMESA partner states can act as catalysts for the continent’s digital integration.

Second, we need to implement policies in the COMESA bloc that create affordable, transparent, and secure platforms for digital cross-border payments by small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The COMESA Business Council, through its Digital Financial Inclusion Program, has already started this work, and they have our support.

Youth-led enterprises account for many businesses on our continent, and we cannot afford to leave them behind.

Lastly, Africa’s integration agenda will be achieved by continuing to put stability at the forefront of our continent’s growth and development.

In this regard, I welcome the report of the 17th meeting of the COMESA Ministers of Foreign Affairs held earlier this month.

Rwanda looks forward to working with our partners in COMESA to maximise the opportunities for trade and prosperity in our region.

I thank you for your kind attention.