Southern Africa: SADC Set to Reopen Cross-Border Trade

Dar es Salaam — The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) is gearing up for a full reopening of cross-border trading.

This comes after experts in the region expressed satisfaction over the precautionary measures countries within the 16-member bloc have taken to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus which causes Covid-19.

The move comes after about 50 days when the body adopted its regional guidelines for harmonising and facilitating movement of critical goods and services across the region during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The guidelines, adopted after a meeting of the Sadc Council of Ministers on April 6, 2020, aimed at limiting the spread of Covid-19 through transport across borders; facilitating the implementation of transport related national Covid-19 measures in cross-border transportation and facilitating flow of essential goods such as fuel, food and medicines. The guidelines also sought to limit unnecessary and mass movement of passengers across borders and harmonising and coordinating transport-related national Covid-19 policies, regulations and response measures.

But with some countries - including Tanzania - making some important milestones in their fight against Covid-19, a virtual meeting of experts met yesterday to draw the roadmap for a meeting of Sadc Council of Ministers today (Thursday, May 28) resolved that some things must now change.

"This meeting is being held in preparation for a meeting for the Sadc Council of Ministers. Key on the agenda that we will be presenting to the Sadc Council of Ministers is that some of the issues that we knew about Covid-19 must now change," said the meeting chairman and Permanent Secretary (PS) in Tanzania's Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Ministry, Colonel Wilbert Ibuge.

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He said permanent secretaries for Sadc foreign affairs ministries had agreed in principle to remove a provision that allowed only the facilitation of movement of critical goods and services across the region during the Covid-19 period.

"The truth is that all products that [move across borders] seek to improve lives of our people within Sadc. All business goods must move across our borders," he said.

He said recommendations from the meeting of PS' would be forwarded to a virtual meeting of council of ministers today (Thursday) for deliberations.

The meeting of experts comprised senior officials from six ministries from each Sadc member state.

They deliberated on eight items that had been approved by the council of ministers last early month.

"The experts noted that people must learn to live with Covid-19 because the disease could be here to stay and therefore, all kind of businesses must continue so that together we can build our economies," he said.

The ministers will also deliberate on issues pertaining to the financial position of Sadc, implementation of a resolution on disaster management within the bloc and progress towards implementation of the theme that was adopted during the 39th Sadc meeting.

The ministers will also deliberate on the state of business operations among Sadc member states, industrial development in Sadc and implementation of the Sadc Industrial Development Strategy and its work plan.

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