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Lusaka, Friday, March 24, 2017: The formulation of projects under the COMESA trade facilitation programme to be financed under the 11th European Development Fund has been finalized. This follows the conclusion of a two day regional workshop in Lusaka for Member States to validate the identified projects.

The programme has an allocation of 53 million Euros out of a total of 85 million Euros provided by the European Union in support of COMESA regional integration programmes.

The overarching goal of the trade facilitation programme is to make trade transactions easier, quicker, more efficient and less costly, thereby enhancing trade flows in the identified transport corridors.

This is by increasing intra-regional trade flows of goods, persons and services by reducing the costs/delays of imports/exports at specific border posts.

Activities under the trade facilitating programme will include; monitoring and resolution of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs); implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement; coordinated border management and trade and transport facilitation along selected corridors and border posts; implementation of harmonized, science based Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary (SPS) and Technical Standards; and trade in services, free movement of persons and trade negotiations / promotion.

 A study that was commissioned to provide more information on the identified projects was presented to representatives from Member States for validation in a consultative process that involved COMESA and the European Union. The validation of the study report now paves way for the conclusion of the financing agreement by COMESA and the EU in readiness for launching the implementation of the project from 2018.

Speaking at the workshop, Secretary General Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya stressed the need to address the high cost of transporting goods in the region and thereby enhancing the competitiveness of firms in the region especially Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

He said COMESA was preparing to publish its own Ease of Doing Business Report and Competitiveness Report in the near future in line with its guiding principles of “a learning, a knowledge and an innovative organization.”

Head of Regional Cooperation at the EU Delegation in Zambia, Mr Matteo Sirtori, informed the workshop that a study on cross border trade was ongoing aimed at fine tuning the activities previously defined in the Action document which was approved by the EU in 2016.

“It is important that Member States provide input at the design phase and ensure that they are prepared to implement these activities,” he said.

Going forward, Member States are expected to mobilize their line Ministries and other stakeholders  as the implementation will take place at national level by national authorities while COMESA will take the lead in coordinating.

The project is in line with the COMESA Transport policy which provides a framework for the development of national policies which enhance the regional agenda. It aims at providing for seamless regional physical connectivity and the smooth facilitation in the provision of transport services that are not impended by regulatory, licensing, administrative and operational bottlenecks to cross border and transit transport services.

Burundi, Comoros, Congo DR, Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe participated in the workshop