CROSS border traders within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) region have adopted new business tactics to facilitate trade amid Covid-19-induced restrictions.
According to Comesa, since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the region in mid-March 2020, small-scale traders have been unable to cross borders as they have traditionally done either to buy or sell goods.
“The regional supply of primary agricultural commodities, most of which are traded under the Simplified Trade Regime (STR), especially food stuffs from surplus to deficit areas has also been disrupted by the long delays at borders as truck drivers wait to be tested for Covid-19 before crossing,” it said.
Comesa, which is a free trade area consisting of 21-member countries including some from Southern Africa such as Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Namibia, and Zambia, said it supports cross border trade, which is the lifeline of a huge community in the region.
Stakeholders under the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Projectj (GLTFP) have engaged and came up with innovative means of trading across the borders.
These innovations are meant to ease the movement of goods and avoid food shortages. Subsequently, it said a new concept of bulk-buying has been developed whereby goods are procured in large consignments in collaboration with suppliers across the Comesa region borders.
“This ensures there is no mass movement of traders crossing the borders.
“Led by the Cross-Border Traders’ Associations (CBTA), this concept has helped traders minimise the risk of Covid- 19 spread and allow safe trade,’ it said.
“It consists of packaging similar goods from either side of the borders and moving them across the border using joint means of transport,” said Comesa.
This intervention limits the movement of people to the strict minimum as only the driver conveys the goods accompanied by the group representative, responsible for cash transactions as well distribution of the merchandise among the members.
“In the points, small scale cross-border trade is conducted by grouping goods from CBTAs who note down the requirements of their members.
“This constitutes the consolidated list of orders to be sent to their counterparts on the other side of the border,” said Comesa.
Under this innovative arrangement, prices are discussed and agreed over the phone and a truck escort is authorised to accompany the vehicle in order to receive payments with mobile money transactions also used.
Once the goods arrive, the traders share them out and proceed with trading at their different points of sale.
However, the trading bloc noted that for the above innovation to succeed, a lot of goodwill and trade policy support, is required from the respective governments.
It said such collaboration is important as Covid-19 pandemic has affected all sectors of the economy, including agricultural value chains to which the small-scale cross border traders are affiliated.