Overall, 716 out of 796 (88.9%) of NTBs registered in the online reporting system implemented by the three regional economic communities (RECs), COMESA, East African Community and the Southern Africa Development Community have been resolved. Only 80 NTBs remain unresolved.
The main NTBs include restrictive licensing, permitting, and other requirements applied at the border. Barriers behind the border, such as unwarranted technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures are equally prevalent.
The tripartite NTBs Online and SMS Reporting, Monitoring and Eliminating system www.tradebarriers.org has been operational since 2010 and has remained an effective tool in the resolution of cross-border trade challenges. It was established to support market integration by implementing a harmonized NTBs elimination programme in COMESA, EAC and SADC tripartite region.
The online system is designed to receive online and Short Message/Messaging Service (SMS) complaints from public users. It comprises three sub systems for each REC (COMESA, EAC, SADC). Anyone with access to the internet can submit a complaint into the system.
Reports on NTBs made on the system are dealt with by National Monitoring Committees (NMCs) and National Focal Points (NFPs), whose contribution to the resolution and elimination of NTBs in the Tripartite region has been effective. Subsequently, COMESA Director of Trade and Customs Dr Chris Onyango has called upon Partner/Member States, which have not yet established the NMCs and designated National Focal Points to do so as a matter of priority.
“NTBs evolve over time, hence become a single most hindrance to intra-regional trade and an easy option to deter or restrict trade. They therefore require persistent vigilance and commitment by all stakeholders, especially members of the national monitoring committees,” he said when he addressed the second meeting of the Tripartite NMCs and NTBs Focal Points on 20 February 2023.
As the tariff walls come down in global and regional trading arena, the Director noted, NTBs continued to thrive and emerge in different forms in the Tripartite region.
“This makes your roles very pertinent in managing cross-border and international trade,” he told the delegates who attended the virtual meeting.
The meeting also discussed the modalities of handing over the hosting and management of the NTBs online reporting system to the Tripartite RECs to complete the development of Non- Tariff Measures (NTMs) databases for Tripartite Member/Partner States and further improvements in the system. The system has been managed by the developer since inception.
This meeting also reviewed the establishment and operationalization of NTBs institutions for the management /administration of the Online NTBs/NTMs systems in the RECs and Member/Partner States.