THE Tripartite Task Force of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East Africa Community and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is in the process of developing a common guideline that would ease cross border movement of goods, services and their people.
The guidelines are to be used during and beyond Covid-19 crisis, to address any future health emergencies that might arise for transportation and trade facilitation.
In the course, the Regional Economic Communities (REC) has developed an integrated electronic monitoring and surveillance system in a grand move to facilitate the effectiveness of the tripartite guidelines on facilitation of cross-border movement of goods and transport.
These were unveiled by the Chairperson of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Task Force, Dr Stergomena Tax, who is also SADC Executive Secretary, while gracing the extraordinary virtual meeting of the tripartite council of ministers.
According to her, it was encouraging to note that the RECs guidelines have contributed to improving trade and transport facilitation, and that the need to have harmonised guidelines at the tripartite level, while taking into accounts the importance of tripartite crossborder movement of goods, services and persons to facilitate trade and other socio-economic activities.
"With the overlap of RECs membership and the sharing of traffic between and among RECs, the need for harmonised tripartite trade and transport facilitation guidelines for the movement of persons, goods and services across the tripartite region during the Covid-19 pandemic has become more apparent and urgent," she said.
Expounding, she said the guidelines are based on lessons learnt, and international practices from relevant bodies, such as, World Health Organisation (WHO), World Customs Organisation (WCO) and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
According to the top official, the draft guidelines are not restricted to movement of essential goods, but to allow for progressive resumption of regional trade in all goods and services basing on the fact that Covid-19 is likely to be with us for some time to come as member states are gradually reopening their economies in order to revamp economic activities, and sustainably contain the negative impacts of Covid-19.
Speaking on the electronic and surveillance system, Dr Tax said it is essential for the efficient implementation of the tripartite guidelines, and it will enable drivers to be screened for symptoms at the borders, with no further tests during the validity period.
"It is expected to reduce delays at borders and checkpoints, and remove the risks of infection of drivers, crews and frontline personnel, which arise due to crowding at borders and checkpoints under the current paper based procedures," she noted.
During the meeting, the tripartite paid tribute to the loss of the former president of Tanzania, the late Benjamin Mkapa, by observing a minute of silence, describing him as a true Pan-Africanist at heart, and one of the most brilliant, influential and visionary leaders of our time.
"Those who had the pleasure of working closely with the late President Mkapa would attest that, among others, he had a very strong passion for regional cooperation and economic integration. Indeed, our continent has lost a leader who fought for the independence and development of the continent, and sustenance of peace, security and stability," said Dr Tax in her speech.