Lusaka, July 17, 2020: COMESA has developed an online portal to be used by Member States to exchange information on availability of essential products within the region. This is in response to a directive issued by the COMESA Council of Ministers in May this year to develop the platform to support regional trade, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Secretary General (SG) Ms. Chileshe Kapwepwe launched the prototype platform during a virtual meeting with representatives of Member States (focal points) on Friday 17 July 2020. The focal points will support the private sector in their respective countries in populating the platform with information on essential supplies. This is expected to boost local production and address shortages in supplies from outside the region.
The platform will enable manufacturers and suppliers in different Member States to share information on the e-platform, on their products and their potential to produce and supply. “The platform will connect buyers to suppliers thereby promoting and fostering regional intra-COMESA trade.” the SG said
As part of the roll out and implementation of the platform, the Secretariat conducted a training for the users considering that multiple stakeholders’ use is needed to make it versatile, functional and sustainable. The platform will also help small-scale cross-border traders and SMEs to have access to market information.
In her address, the SG noted that measures being implemented by Member States such as closing borders to prevent the spread of the pandemic had slowed down economic activity and negatively impacted cross border trade.
Hence, the adoption and implementation of the Digital Trade Facilitation programme and other instruments would strengthen the stability of the COMESA region against external shocks.
“Over the mid-to long-term, disruption in supply chains could lead to filling of the gap by regional producers and hence the need to strengthen and fully implement the Free Trade Area,” she said. “The successful implementation of the online platform will no doubt be an important step towards realization of COMESA Digital Free Trade Area initiatives.”
COMESA’s strategy in combating Covid-19 include the need to strengthen openness, coordination and collective approach by Member States in facilitating movement of goods and services amidst restrictive measures. It also focuses on safeguarding the existing trading arrangements while avoiding the erosion of gains already made in liberalization of trade and investments.