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COMESA Secretariat has completed the design of the Digital Free Trade Area and its action plan and the development of the Electronic Certificate of Origin (eCO) and its draft regulations. The certificate is now ready for piloting in 15 Member States that are willing and ready to participate.

These include: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo,  Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Sudan, Seychelles, Uganda, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Ministers attending the recent Ministerial Council meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, 3 - 4 November 2017 welcomed the progress made on the design of the digital FTA and the electronic trade facilitation tools noting that they have the potential to transform regional trade.

The Council recommended for a phased approach for rolling out the instruments for the Digital FTA. This will begin with the instruments that are ready and Member States that are willing to participate within this year. Other segments will be finalized concurrently while addressing constraints Member States may have.

In 2014, the Council decided that Member States that were ready to accept and use the Electronic Certificate of Origin should do so by 31 July 2014. The Council had further urged Member States whose legal systems did not provide for e-COs to enact enabling laws as soon as possible with the view to replace the manual certificates of origin with the electronic certificates in a bid to speed up the process of certification as well as facilitate trade in real time

In line with the latest Council decision, the Secretariat will undertake capacity building programmes for participating Member States in the first half of 2018 through a regional workshop and national workshops. This will bring on board the public and private sector to provide input and ownership of the systems, and ensure that the system integrates the small and medium enterprises.

The Secretariat will undertake a gap analysis of which instruments Member States have and their preparedness to implement the Digital FTA instruments.