President Yoweri Museveni told African leaders that it's now possible for the continent to compete with the rest of the world by leveraging digital tools.
Citing the socio-economic changes occasioned by Covid-19, the president noted that optimization of technology can catapult the continent to the stage it desires.
"If there has been one positive thing from COVID-19, it is unlocking the digital potential of our countries. The fact that we are holding this Summit both physically and virtually is an attestation to this," Museveni said at the 21st Summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Authority of Heads of State and Government in a speech read by the Vice President Jessica Alupo on Monday.
"Your Excellencies, you will appreciate that while in the past Africa has not moved at the same pace with the rest of the world, now we have an opportunity and are better placed to move with the rest of the world."
The summit run under the theme 'Building Resilience through Strategic Digital Economic Integration'.
The president observed that the African Continental Free Trade Area was impressively progressing, urging his counterparts to aim at enhancing the efforts through strategic planning.
"Therefore, to ensure that we have a stronger integrated Africa, we must strengthen its building blocks. Hitherto, we have done extremely well in regulatory integration through, for example, removal of/or reduction of tariffs, liberalization of Services, removal of visa requirements in some instances, and creating mechanisms for removal of Non-Tariff Barriers, among others," he said.
"However, for us to fully harness the full potential of the integration, we must, in addition to regulatory integration, also physically integrate our countries."
According to Museveni, physical integration will be possible through infrastructural integration (interconnecting roads, railways, airspace and inter-connected seaports), and digital integration.
"To these, one can add Human Resource Development, coordinated approaches to ensuring regional peace and stability – including through joint efforts against terrorism and terrorism financing. These are important catalysts for the economic harnessing of the regulatory and infrastructural integration, and for private sector growth,"
Museveni congratulated his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, upon assuming the chairmanship of the COMESA Authority and assured him of the full support of Uganda during his tenure.
He replaces President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar.
President Museveni hailed the COMESA Secretariat for keeping the member states positively engaged during the COVID-19 period, saying "it enabled us to come up with coordinated response measures where countries were able to address the domestic threats posed by the pandemic without weakening the fundamentals" of the bloc.