Internet Photo: Marth Elimu speaking to the press at a past function.

Ugandan Ms Martha Elimu is the new Director Human Resource and Administration at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Secretariat in Lusaka Zambia.

Ms Elimu was formally Chief of Human Resources and Management Services at the same institution.Before Ms Elimu joined COMESA, she head of HR at Monitor Publications Limited/Nation Media Group (NMG), Uganda.

Ms Elimu was appointed as Comesa heads of state summit 2018 on Wednesday elected its first woman secretary-general, Zambian Chileshe Kapwepwe, a former alternate director at the IMF, She replaces Sindiso Ngwenya, who worked at the regional body for 34 years in various capacities.

At the time of her appointment, Ms Kapwepwe was serving as chairperson of the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA).

The new changes come at the time when membership of Comesa has risen to 20 following the admission of Tunisia as a member of the regional bloc at the ongoing Summit of the COMESA Heads of State and Government. Tunisia was admitted after having fulfilled the COMESA terms and conditions of accession to the COMESA Treaty.

Tunisia first applied for observer status in COMESA in 2005 but the matter was not concluded. In February 2016, the country formally wrote to the Secretary General making enquiries on joining.

Meanwhile Comesa has adopted internship programme whereby graduates from tertiary institutions in the COMESA region are now expected to be absorbed into employment much faster following the adoption of a Youth Internship Volunteer Programme.

The Programme, which was adopted by the 38th meeting of Council of Ministers held from 14 -15 July 2018 in Lusaka, Zambia, seeks to increase youth employment, particularly for young women and men graduates who join the labour market every year. It was developed in collaboration with the United Nations Volunteers.

The Council meeting was attended by Ministers and their representatives from Congo DR; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Eswatini; Kenya; Libya; Madagascar; Malawi; Mauritius; Rwanda; Seychelles; Sudan; Uganda; Zambia; and, Zimbabwe.

The Youth Internship and Volunteers program is expected to raise youth employability through practical skills. It is also expected to provide job opportunities (in key economic sectors) through the provision of information and facilitation of networks and resolve the mismatch between labour market demands and the supply of qualified personnel from institutions of higher education.

According to the United Nations, 226 million youth aged 15-24 lived in Africa in 2015 representing almost 20 per cent of the continent’s population. This represents one-fifth of the world’s youth population. It presents a huge opportunity for the program to empower the continent’s youthful population and enhance their contribution towards economic development.

In its decision, the Council urged Member States, through Ministries responsible for youth, to facilitate the implementation of the Youth Internship and Volunteer Program. In line with chapter 25 of the COMESA Treaty, which focuses on development and utilisation of human resources, the newly adopted program will include among other aspects, training and skills development of the youth.

The Programme will be piloted in four countries: Comoros, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Zambia, before replication to other member States and secretariat has been directed to engage more development partners to support the program to enable coverage of more Member States.