Saudi Arabia has made a contribution towards the building of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) headquarters in Zambia as the Gulf nation moves to strengthen ties with the continent.

Saudi Ambassador to Zambia Ali Saad Alkahtani, has presented a cheque worth $2 million to Comesa Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe in Lusaka, for the construction of the trade bloc’s headquarters.

Amb Alkahtani, said the motivation to support the construction of the Comesa headquarters stems from the strong relations that exist between the Kingdom and the bloc based on mutual respect and joint action.

“On the directives of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, Prime Minister, Prince Muhammad bin Salman and on behalf of the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I have the pleasure to hand you a cheque in the amount of $2 million for the construction of the permanent headquarters of Comesa,” he said.

This comes as an affirmation of the Kingdom’s support for efforts being undertaken by Comesa to achieve its goals, which include strengthening relations among member states, promoting trade, encouraging peace, stability and promoting economic development.

“I would like to stress that the Kingdom will continue to work with its partners to support everything that promotes development and prosperity in African countries,” said Amb Alkahtani.

Welcoming the gesture, Ms Kapwepwe said the donation was very opportune as the Secretariat embarks on a full-fledged resource mobilisation effort to raise funding for the construction of the headquarters which is projected to cost $35 million.

The decision to construct a new headquarters was made by the Comesa Heads of State and Government a while back. Since then, the Secretariat has been exploring possible financing options.

“So today, the contribution by the Kingdom of Saudi of Arabia is significant, as it puts us a step closer to the beginning in earnest of the construction of the new headquarters,” said Ms Kapwepwe.

She added that the plot of land, on which the construction of the new building will be made, was provided by the Government of Zambia. It measures 10 acres and can accommodate the headquarters and additional projects.

The current Headquarters, which is based in downtown Lusaka, was purchased in 1997 when the Secretariat was still young.

Due to the expansion of the organisation, in terms of the number of projects being managed and the staff complement, there has been an urgent need to construct a new Headquarters to enable Comesa to house all its activities under one roof.

The Secretary-General described the new project as an opportunity to construct ultra-modern and environment-friendly premises, befitting the statute of the regional bloc.