The Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on 29th July, 2020 adopted harmonised Tripartite Guidelines on Trade and Transport Facilitation Guidelines for Safe, Efficient and Cost-Effective Movement of Goods and Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Guidelines are aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 whilst facilitating trade and transport of goods and services across the Tripartite area during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his remarks at the opening of the Tripartite Council of Ministers meeting, Honourable Mr Tarek Shalaby, Assistant Minister for Foreign Trade, Agreements and International Relations of the Arab Republic of Egypt, representing the Chairperson of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Council of Ministers said the harmonisation of guidelines on Trade and Transport Facilitation presents an opportunity towards the realisation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) which was signed by the Tripartite Heads of State and Government in June, 2015.
The Minister called for collective action to guarantee movement of goods and services to promote intra-regional trade, while reducing the cost of goods and services within the tripartite area. He added that the attainment of tripartite and continental integration can only be realised with the harmonisation of regional initiatives and overcoming the challenges of overlaps and multiple membership of COMESA, EAC and SADC.
On her part, the Chairperson of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Task Force, the Executive Secretary of SADC, Her Excellency Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, highlighted that the overlapping nature of membership and sharing of traffic among the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) have necessitated the urgent need for harmonised Guidelines for the Movement of Persons, Goods and Services across the Tripartite Region during COVID-19 Pandemic.
H.E. Dr Tax noted that mobility restrictions to contain COVID-19 affected regional trade and transport, and resulted in shortage of goods, and long queues at ports of entry and exit, translating into increased cost of doing business and consumer prices.
On the experiences of cross-border truck drivers, H.E. Dr Tax said the COVID-19 cross-border restrictions that have been targeted on truck drivers have led to stigmatisation of cross-border drivers, impacts of which have not only affected the drivers and local communities, but also negatively impacted the ongoing efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. She urged the Tripartite members to work together to sustainably contain the negative impacts of COVID-19 and address any future health emergencies that might arise.
During the meeting, the Tripartite Council of Ministers directed the Tripartite Task Force to establish the required institutional arrangements for monitoring the implementation of the adopted Guidelines.
The Ministers agreed on the development and integration of Electronic Surveillance Systems to Monitor Driver Health and Track the Movement of Drivers and Trucks in order to facilitate the implementation of the Tripartite Guidelines. On this note, the Ministers agreed that the management of the electronic surveillance systems for monitoring the drivers and vehicles during COVID-19 Pandemic will be undertaken by Member/Partner States.
The meeting was attended by, among others, Ministers and senior Government officials from COMESA, EAC and SADC Member States, the Secretary General of COMESA, H.E. Chileshe Kapwepwe; Mr Kenneth Bagamuhunda, the epresentative of Secretary General of EAC, H.E. Ambassador Liberat Mfumukeko and the Executive Secretary of SADC, H.E. Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax.