Lusaka, Monday, April 6, 2020: As the number of COVID 19 reported cases gains pace in the region, crossing the 2,000 mark on Friday, April 3, 2020, COMESA has sent out a solidarity message to its Members States as they face one of the biggest socioeconomic challenge in modern history.
“On behalf of the Chairperson of COMESA Authority, His Excellency, Andry Rajoelina, President of the Republic of Madagascar and all COMESA Member States, and indeed on my own behalf, I have the honour to convey to you, our message of solidarity as you face the worst health and economic crisis of our lifetime,” Secretary General Chileshe Chileshe Kapwepwe said in the message issued on Friday.
Noting that the African continent was spared an early attack of the pandemic compared to other regions, she called on government to prepare properly to face the pandemic through lessons learnt and applying best practice that have worked in some countries.
“As we put measures to address the pandemic, we feel this should not be the time to panic but rather, to harden our collective resolve to contain this pandemic by preparing well and taking effective measures,” she said.
“Given the negative impact that the pandemic has on our economies as a result of travel restrictions, which affect trade in goods as well as services, it is our resolve to push on with the timely implementation of the COMESA Digital Free Trade Area covering eTrade, eLogistics and eLegislation.”
Some of the online services that will support business continuity include the Customs Automation (ASYCUDA); Online monitoring of non tariff barriers, reporting and resolution mechanism; COMESA Virtual Trade Facilitation System; the RCTG and Digital Yellow Card System; the 50 Million Women Speak Platform among others.
“COMESA notes with appreciation the resolve that our Members States have demonstrated by taking far-reaching measures to ensure our region escapes the worst of the pandemic,” the Secretary General noted. “Some of these measures are disruptive on our people’s livelihoods. But they are necessary if our countries hope to stem the tide of the pandemic whose impact and aftermath is unprecedented.”
Recognizing the roles of National Disaster Management structures in times of crisis, she urged Member States to support and strengthen them to build resilience and capacity to provide humanitarian assistance that is critically required.
SG said COMESA will continue to engage cooperating partners to explore ways of supporting Member States in containing the pandemic. She called on the all citizens in the region to follow the precautions issued by the World Health Organization and the respective governments in containing the pandemic.
“This is a fight for our lives, and everyone has a role to play,” she concluded.