Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) and COMESA have opened a new chapter of cooperation on regional integration programmes following a high-level meeting between the parties, held on Monday, September 10, 2018 in Lusaka.
The TMEA team was led by its Board Chairman Mr. Erastus Mwencha, who is also former COMESA Secretary General and immediate Deputy Chair of the African Union and comprised of the Chief Executive Office Mr. Frank Matsaert among others.
COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe led the COMESA team flanked by the Assistant Secretary General (Programmes) Dr Kipyego Cheluget and senior officials.
Mr. Mwencha said TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) already works closely with East African Community institutions, national governments as well as the private sector and civil society organisations.
“The main purpose is to increase trade by unlocking the economic potential of Member States increased physical access to markets, enhanced trade environment and improved business competitiveness,” he said.
In his brief to the Secretary General, Mr. Matsaert said: “TMEA has diagnosed the problems in the north and central corridor and has come up with a program now in second phase with an initial investment of $2m.”
He added that TMEAs largest programs have been in ports of Dar-e-salaam and Mombasa focusing on the infrastructure upgrading to raise productivity. TMEA success also has been in coordinating and integrating border management systems, automation, cargo tracking, reduction of non-tariff barriers and harmonizing standards national and regional level.
He stated that TMEA closely works with the private sector particularly the small-scale traders at each country level.
“Our main concern is supporting women traders at borders in formalizing informal trade, increasing income and value addition especially at war conflict zone borders like DRC and South Sudan,” he said.
In her remarks, the SG observed that the only way to solve the problem of long hours of crossing the border is getting the diagnostics and determine where to make improvements.
“Integrating borders in software and hardware has to be addressed. Automation will help in speeding up the process of linkages and integration,” she noted. “Border efficiency, harmonization and simplifying border procedures are the key areas where TMEA and COMESA can partners.”
The two parties agreed to explore closer partnership in four key areas of trade facilitation, development of transport corridors and improvements in logistics, industrialization and promotion of small scale cross-border traders particularly with focus on women and the youth among COMESA Member States by addressing prevailing constraints especially along the borders.