Kampala- Business people in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa)  Member States will benefit from a Euro 10million (Shs41 billionn) fund provided by the European Union (EU) to support increased private sector participation in regional and global value chains.

This follows the signing of a financing agreement between the EU and Comesa to implement the Regional Enterprise Competitiveness and Access to Markets Programme (RECAMP).

This programme which was signed on Monday in Lusaka, Zambia, is supported under the 11th European Development Fund.

Speaking at the signing ceremony,  the Secretary General of Comesa Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe said: “Supply side constraints is a major contributor to low competitiveness and productivity of industries in the region, as well as inability of Micro Small and Medium enterprises (MSMEs) especially women and youth-owned enterprises to participate in regional production networks.”

She said: “According to the findings of a profiling exercise of SMEs in the footwear, garments and cassava processing that was undertaken by the Comesa Secretariat, it was noted that at least 65 percent of SMEs operating in the region are facing most of these constraints.”

Several officials including the head of the EU Delegation to Zambia and Comesa, Ambassador Alessandro Mariani signed for their respective organizations.

The programme has two key result areas;  to ensure that competitiveness and market access of small and medium enterprise (SMEs) and other firms in the targeted value chains are sustainably enhanced.

Under this result, the programme will facilitate networking, access to knowledge, vital market information and support formal business linkages between SMEs, key regional suppliers and lead firms.

Further, it will support more formalised governance structures in the value chains and enhance capacities of SMEs and other actors in adhering to sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) and technical standards (TBT) to comply with regional markets requirements.

The second result area will focus on improving the business environment for SMEs and other firms in the selected value chains by complementing current national strategies developed by member states for economic transformation through industrialisation. Activities will include supporting peer learning with the front-runner countries sharing experiences.

The RECAMP programme will run for five years focusing on agro-processing, horticulture and leather and leather products.

Ambassador Mariani said the targeted value chains were selected for having high demand both in the region and international markets.

“We believe that these present the biggest opportunities for participation of women and youth-led small and medium enterprises through development of strong partnerships with large corporations in the upstream of the value chains,” he said.

Under the programme, champions or lead firms within the selected value chains that have both backward and forward linkages with SMEs and other intermediary firms will be identified to enhance effect coordination reduce coordination failures and improve competitiveness.