Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE value of trade within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) declined by 11 percent to US$9,7 billion last year due to Covid-19 pandemic and pre-existing factors.
According to an update presented at the ongoing 37th meeting of Comesa Trade and Customs Committee, which ends tomorrow, the trading bloc said:
“The value of Intra-Comesa total exports declined by 11 percent from US$10,9 billion in 2019 to US$9,7 billion in 2020.
“The low performance was attributed to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic and pre-existing factors such as supply-side challenges and prevalence of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs).”
The low intra-regional trade resulted from existing gaps in information availability on trading opportunities, regulatory requirements in markets and factors that inform business decisions on production of goods and trade.
The meeting brings together trade and customs experts representing governments from the 21 member States and are deliberating on issues that affect regional trade and integration.
Key among them is how to get all member States to participate in the Comesa Free Trade Area (FTA).
“They will also discuss the identification and elimination of NTBs, implementation of trade facilitation measures including the Comesa digital FTA, how to advance services liberalisation and build effective platforms for trade promotion and e-commerce,” said the trading bloc.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting this week, Comesa assistant secretary general in charge of programmes, Dr Kipyego Cheluget observed that regional trade could flourish if member States embraced the Comesa trade and customs facilitation instruments and policies.
“If well implemented these could significantly increase intra-Comesa trade, reduce time and cost, increase regional competitiveness, create jobs and positively impact on living standards of our people,” he said.
However, Dr Cheluget noted that the implementation of regional commitments and full participation of all member States in Comesa FTA required greater efforts and improvement.
Last year, Comesa developed Covid-19 guidelines and an online platform for exchange of information on movement of essential goods and services.
The aim was to ensure safe trade continued across the region.
The utilisation of the platform is however still low hence Dr Cheluget appealed to member States to mobilise national business bodies to ensure its full utilisation, not only to address information gaps, but also to create market linkages and business opportunities.
During the meeting, Comesa Business Council is expected to present a concept for hosting biennial Comesa trade fair to promote investments in regional value chains and leverage greater participation of the private sector in the integration process.
A technical study on export potential for intra-Comesa trade will also be presented at the meeting.
The outputs of the meeting will be presented to the Intergovernmental Committee and later to the Council of Ministers scheduled to meet next month ahead of the 21st Comesa Summit on November 18. – @okazunga