ADDIS ABABA, March 24– Ethiopia has stressed the need to diversify export items and value addition to boost trade ties between countries in eastern and southern Africa.

Opening the 34th Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Inter-Governmental Committee (IC) meeting here Sunday, Ethiopian State Minister for Industry Dr. Mebratu Meles said diversification and value added export items would play a vital role in enhancing intra-regional trade.

“Trade among COMESA member states has shown a dramatic increase over the past few years. This can be considered as highly encouragingm” he added.

Intra-COMESA trade reached 20.9 billion US dollars last year. However, this is still low compared with member countries’ total trade with non-COMESA countries because of the similarity on items produced by the member countries.

Value-addition would address this challenge while empowering small, medium and micro enterprises in member states, Dr Mebratu said.

Furthermore, he added, intensifying efforts in industrial development and adding value instead of supplying raw products would help to address the challenge.

Supply-side constraints, non- tariff barriers, monetary challenges, and restrictive visa and border control measures are the main challenges to increasing the volume of intra-regional trade, he said.

Enhancing value added products and inclusive sustainable industry development are key to COMESA member states in boosting intra-regional trade, said Admasu Nebebe, the United Nations regional economic co-operation director at Ethiopia’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.

He argued that member states should give due attention to expand infrastructure networks and competiveness to enhance the trade relations between them.