ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka
THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member states have been urged to implement regulatory reforms to reduce the costs of cross-border trade in the region.
COMESA with support from the African Development Bank (AfDB) conducted a time release study (TRS) used to measure the aspects of effectiveness of operational procedures that are carried out by customs and other regulatory border agencies concerned with processing of imports, exports and goods-in-transit.
The TRS survey was conducted in 10 COMESA member countries, which included Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Sudan, Uganda and Zambia.
Officiating at a validation of the TRS report workshop recently, AfDB Zambia country manager Damoni Kitabire said there is need for COMESA member states to implement trade facilitation programmes and invest more in infrastructure for them to gain from regional trade.
The issues and challenges identified in the study include; ineffective border management procedures, practices, inadequate infrastructure and staffing of border posts.
Others are errors in the declarations resulting in long waiting times and differences in border post operating hours between neighbouring countries hence making the cost of cross-border transactions expensive.
“COMESA countries are expected to develop a roadmap to address some of the bottlenecks identified by the study and improve trade facilitation in the region,” Mr Kitabire said.
Earlier, COMESA secretary general Sindiso Ngwenya said the recommendations of the TRS report will be shared with the COMESA heads of customs to allow for further action in addressing the identified gaps.
In speech read for him by COMESA customs expert Zerezghi Kidane, Mr Ngwenya said TRS will help the region to improve trade facilitation as part of the wider COMESA customs and trade work programme 2018-20.
He said the workshop was intended to enable member states to understand the details of customs clearance time and adopt trade facilitation measures that will reduce the cost of trade and deepen regional integration.