News & Information



18
December
2020

COMESA Member States to fast-track the use of digital Trade Instruments


By: TTCA
Summary/Brief
The 41st meeting of the COMESA Council of Ministers conducted via Video Conferencing from 26th to 27th November 2020 directed speedy digitalisation of trade instruments which include electronic trade (e-trade), e-logistics and e-legislation under the COMESA Digital Free Trade Area initiative. The Council urged Member States to enhance investments in internet infrastructure and penetration to promote online supply of services and reduce costs of communication-mobile, internet and financial services to increase/expand the benefits of digital technology.


The 41st meeting of the COMESA Council of Ministers conducted via Video Conferencing from 26th to 27th November 2020 directed speedy digitalisation of trade instruments which include electronic trade (e-trade), e-logistics and e-legislation under the COMESA Digital Free Trade Area initiative. The Council urged Member States to enhance investments in internet infrastructure and penetration to promote online supply of services and reduce costs of communication-mobile, internet and financial services to increase/expand the benefits of digital technology.

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E-trade trading platform displaying an online stock trading programme

In their decision, the Ministers also urged Member States to fast-track implementation of the protocol on free movement of persons and easing regional movement. Specifically, they cited the movement of professionals like medical personnel, engineers, technicians, essential goods and services across borders and the development of a regional strategy to encourage and promote domestic and regional tourism.

The Ministers recognised that in the area of market integration, several trade facilitation instruments were being implemented, although intra-COMESA trade had remained depressed. With support from development partners such as the European Union, and the World Bank, and COMESA Institutions, several Trade Facilitation Programmes were at various stages of implementation.

The said Trade Facilitation programmes not only help unlock cross-border business transactions but stand right at the centre of offering long-term solutions to the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic: they give room and opportunity to implement automation of customs operations and effectively upscale the use of technology and uptake envisaged in the COMESA Digital Free Trade Area.

COMESA Member States have made significant steps in making liberalisation commitments in the four prioritised sectors, namely Tourism & Travel, Transport Services, Communication and Services and Financial Services sector. This is important considering the complementary role services play in fostering trade and overall economic growth and development in COMESA region’s economies.

Despite the significant milestones in dealing with Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB) issues- Rules, regulations, working procedures, online NTB monitoring systems-NTBs remain a major hindrance to growth and expansion of intra-COMESA trade. This has been escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic period when countries are increasingly taking discretionary measures to contain the spread of the virus.

COMESA Member States were therefore urged to review and improve existing regulations and mechanisms, taking into account changing eco-systems and technological advancements.

At the regional level, COMESA has been instrumental in providing leadership in facilitating negotiations for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which came into force on 30th May 2019. Additionally, COMESA continued to support negotiations on the implementation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) in partnership with SADC and EAC.





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