HARARE, Feb 26– President Robert Mugabe has left Harare for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to attend the 17th Summit of Heads of state and Government of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) being held in the DRC capital, Kinshasa.

He was seen off from Harare International Airport here tuesday by Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, service chiefs and other top government officials.

The summit, running from Tuesday to Thursday, is being held under the theme “Consolidating Intra-COMESA Trade and Investment through Micro, Medium and Small Enterprises”, which was chosen to highlight the role such enterprises play in developing economies of Africa. The deliberations will mainly focus on ways to strengthen their operations.

Zimbabwe has a vibrant small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) sector but it has been failing to realise its full potential because of various challenges, chiefly financial constraints. According to a survey conducted by the World Bank in 2012, about 5.7 million people are working in Zimbabwe’s SME sector.

The summit is also expected to deliberate on progress in implementing the COMESA Free Trade Area, the COMESA Customs Union and the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Agenda, linking the grouping with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC).

Peace and security, infrastructure programmes, agriculture, environment and related sectors will also be on the agenda.

The last COMESA summit was held in Uganda in November 2012 and the current COMESA chairman, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, will hand over the chair to President Joseph Kabila of the DRC.

COMESA is a grouping of 19 African states which have agreed to promote regional integration through trade development and to develop their natural and human resources for the mutual benefit of all their peoples and its members include Uganda, Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar, Zambia, Egypt, Libya and Zimbabwe.