THE Tripartite Council of Ministers of three regional economic communities in the eastern and southern Africa has approved new harmonised trade and transport facilitation guidelines.
The tripartite guidelines for the movement of persons, goods and services across the Tripartite Region during the Covid-19 pandemic, consolidates those developed earlier by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern (Comesa), the East African Community (EAC) and Sadc into one, which will be applied across their 28 member States.
In a statement, Comesa said the guidelines include the Comesa- guidelines for movement of goods and services across the Comesa bloc during the Covid-19 pandemic, the EAC- administrative guidelines to facilitate movement of goods and services during Covid-19 pandemic; and the Sadc- guidelines on harmonisation and facilitation of cross-border transport operations across the region during the pandemic.
“The harmonisation of these guidelines was necessitated by the overlapping membership of countries among the three economic blocs and the shared traffic on their transport corridors, which have been negatively impacted by the current Covid-19 response measures,” it said.
The Tripartite Task Force has been directed by the Council of Ministers to establish the required institutional arrangements for monitoring the implementation of the guidelines.
At their recent meeting, the ministers also agreed on the development and integration of electronic surveillance systems to monitor drivers’ health and movement of trucks, which will be undertaken by member States.
It has been noted that Covid-19 cross-border restrictions have mainly targeted truck drivers leading to their stigmatisation.
This has not only affected the drivers and local communities, but also negatively impacted the ongoing efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“Those mobility restrictions to contain Covid-19 have affected regional trade and transport, and resulted in shortage of goods, and long queues at ports of entry and exit, translating into increased cost of doing business and consumer prices, but this will be a thing of the past,”
chairperson of the Tripartite Task Force Dr Stergomena Tax, who is also the executive secretary of Sadc was quoted as saying.
With the Tripartite guidelines in place, she noted, the smooth flow of traffic for goods and services will ensure economic development of member and partner States who have been affected by the pandemic and help them build their economies once again.
Dr Tax said the harmonisation of guidelines presents an opportunity towards the realisation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), which was signed by the Tripartite Heads of State and Government in June 2015.
“The attainment of tripartite and continental integration can only be realised with the harmonisation of regional initiatives and overcoming the challenges of overlaps and multiple membership of Comesa, EAC and Sadc,” she said.