Africa: Customs Union Transition Period Pushed

Arusha — The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) summit in Kampala opened many supportive opportunities to the micro, small and medium scale enterprises.

Uganda Minister for Trade, Amelia Kyambadde who is also the chairperson of the COMESA Council of Ministers said the member states' leaders are in full support of the regional economic development following a number of recommendations that were in the communique released at the end of the summit.

She said that the leaders of the nineteen COMESA partner states' resolved to commit themselves to the implementation of programmes on capacity building of entrepreneurship and management skills for the micro, small and medium scale firms in the region.

Kyambadde added that the region's leaders recognized the important role that Micro and Small Medium Enterprises play in COMESA economies and their contribution to job and wealth creation.

COMESA members called for the elimination of all non tariff barriers (NTBs) constraining intra-regional trade, with a specific focus on enhancing market access opportunities for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) that include the strengthening of systems and mechanisms for mutual recognition of technical barriers to trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary (SPS) Standards and measures.

Kyambadde said in the communiqué that the leaders called on upon the PTA bank and financial institutions in member states to provide financing to the firms at affordable rates.

It directed that a detailed report on how far they should have implemented programmes on capacity building, entrepreneurship and utilization of regional and international markets be submitted to the next summit of the COMESA Authority.

"Member states should therefore continue consolidating the COMESA Free Trade Area by removing all non tariff barriers using the tripartite online reporting and monitoring mechanism and to finalise the draft regulations on the barriers," she added.

The COMESA leaders also extended the transition period for the Customs Union by a further two years and called for the adoption of a comprehensive roadmap for the two-year period to address outstanding issues.

The micro, small and medium firms in the region have got more opportunities since the US government extended the third country fabric provision to 2015 although they appealed for an AGOA extension on a long term and predictable basis.

"The leaders appealed to the US to take into account the preference erosion to Africa-AGOA eligible countries before extending similar preferences to Least

Developed Countries (LDCs) in other regions," she said.

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