The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) have begun working towards facilitating free movement of business people in the east and southern African region.

This is being done through a Technical Working Group (TWG) constituting experts from the tripartite regional blocs.

COMESA Trade Expert Mrs Helen Kenani informed delegates attending the International Freight Forwards Association (FIATA) annual conference in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe last month that the movement of business persons has remained a major hindrance to free flow of inter/ intra-regional trade. It is also a key provision in the negotiations for a Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA).

The conference was hosted by the Shipping and Forwarding Agents of Zimbabwe, (SFAAZ) and the Region African and the Middle East (RAME) who invited COMESA to brief the delegates on the RECs initiatives to address Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and the Tripartite Free Trade Area negotiations. It was officially opened by Senior Minister in the Office of the President of Zimbabwe Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo.

In her presentation to the delegates, Mrs. Kenani observed that RECs formed an important stakeholder and presented big business opportunity for freight forwarders given the imminent increase in intra and extra-Tripartite trade”.

“As the TFTA deepens it is expected that it would spur both Foreign Direct Investments as well as regional cross-border investments as currently being witnessed in the COMESA integration process”. Mrs Kenani said.

The delegates noted that important stakeholders in the region were not aware of the efforts being made to fast track the reporting and subsequent resolution of NTBs specifically the Tripartite on-line based mechanism.

An incident that underscored the critical need to address the NTBs was cited whereby a past president of the RAME, Africa Chapter, was prevented from proceeding to the same conference. He was detained in one of the regional airports and then finally sent back to his country for not having a transit visa.

“The participants were therefore keen as details of the mechanisms for reporting NTBs were provided that ranged from accessing the internet, reporting as well as easy access to National Focal Points of a given Tripartite country as well as REC Focal Points for assistance”, Mrs. Kenani said.

The delegates recommended that COMESA and other RECs that impact on their sector should always be invited to their conferences to appraise the membership on the on-goings in the region as was done at the Zimbabwe Conference.

Mrs Kenani informed the Conference that COMESA would be glad to assist in terms of capacity building on trade facilitation instruments that have been put in place for their use such as the COMESA Yellow Card Scheme and the Regional Customs Trade Guarantee scheme.

The FIATA is a non-governmental organization based in Zurich, Switzerland representing an industry covering approximately 40,000 forwarding and logistics firms and employing around 8-10 million people in 164 countries worldwide.

Source: COMESA


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