Southern Africa: COVID-19 Response - SADC Mulls Smooth Goods Flow

THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) has passed a resolution that warrants undisrupted flow of essential goods across the region throughout the Covid-19 outbreak.

With countries increasingly resorting to lockdown to curb the spread of the deadly virus, the regional bloc has set a harmonized mechanism that allows ports within the region to continue transporting essential goods to land-locked members.

The move is aimed at enabling landlocked countries in the SADC region to have access to vital goods and commodities to ease the socio-economic impact of the contagion, which has so far spread to over 200 territories.

Proper logistics will be put in place to enable smooth flow of essential goods whilst ensuring that the pandemic doesn't spread further, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Prof Palamagamba Kabudi said yesterday.

He listed essential goods as medical supplies, food, protective gears, spares, agricultural inputs, fuel, as well as food processing equipment.

Prof Kabudi revealed this when addressing a press conference on new resolutions passed during the emergency videoconference meeting of the SADC Council of Ministers on COVID-19, held on Monday.

"As part of efforts to face the rising threat of COVID- 19 in the region, the council of ministers held an emergency video conference on Monday, with two main agendas discussed," he said.

One of the agendas, he said, was receiving a report of the technical committee responsible for coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the SADC protocol on the health regional coordination to COVID-19 emergency response that was formed by SADC's ministers responsible for health at its meeting of March 9, this year.

During the meeting, the council also directed the secretariat to undertake a mapping of regional manufacturers of essential medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment by end of this month.

The ministers, on the other hand, issued a call upon all member states and the SADC pooled Procurement Agency to utilize the regional manufacturers as much as possible.

The meeting also passed a resolution for member states to make regional pleas to governments which have main international manufacturers and suppliers of essential medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment to the SADC region to accord a preferential dispensation to the region during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The council has, meanwhile, approved regional guidelines on harmonization and facilitation of cross border transport operation across the region during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prof Kabudi further said the council passed a resolution urging member countries to prevent unnecessary transportation of people at all border posts.

"The council urged member states to urgently establish or assign National Transport and Trade Facilitation Committees (NTTFC) or structures with similar mandates, to coordinate the implementation of the guidelines," said the Tanzanian minister.

He added: "The council also saw the importance of harmonizing and coordination of policies, regulations and immediate national response on fighting the spread of COVID-19."

On the economic impact of COVID -19, Prof Kabudi said all member states and the SADC secretariat are in the process to assess the effects for appropriate impact mitigation.

"Each member state and the secretariat itself are assessing the effects, but our hopes are that the situation will recover soon and things will get back to normal," he explained.

The Council of Ministers meeting attracted ministers responsible for Foreign Affairs, Industry and Trade, Tourism, Finance, Home Affairs and Transport from 16 member states.

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