Lusaka, May 24, 2020: Corona-virus preventive measures taken by various Member States including testing, quarantines and restrictions of gatherings along border points have made it almost impossible for cross-border transactions to take place normally.
Clearance of cargo has also been tremendously slowed down leading to long queues hindering supply of essential pharmaceuticals and food items.
As part of emergency measures to support trade facilitation for small cross border traders during the time of Covid-19, last week, COMESA dispatched consignments of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to eight border points under the COMESA Small-Scale Cross Border Trade Initiative (SSCBTI).
The emergency kit was aimed at helping minimize disruption to the smooth flow of trade and ongoing data collection being conducted at the border posts between Zambia on one hand and Zimbabwe, Malawi, DR Congo and Tanzania on the other. These are Mwami/Mchinji (Zambia and Malawi), Chirundu (Zambia and Zimbabwe), Kasumbalesa (Zambia and D R Congo) and Nakonde/Tunduma (Zambia and Tanzania).
The emergency kit included over 10,000 face masks, gloves and hand sanitizers. The kit will support Trade Information Desk Officers (TIDOs) who help small scale traders with clearance of goods, mediation when disputes arise and adherence to policies such as the Simplified Trade Regime (STR).
Under this regime, small-scale cross-border traders benefit from the removal of customs duty (COMESA Preferential treatment) if their goods are on the agreed Common Lists.
The emergency kit was procured at a cost of $8,000 and will help the small-scale traders to continue their operations at the same time facilitate trade information officers to do continue capturing gender disaggregated statistical data on small cross border trade. The data will be used to increase evidence-based knowledge and inform better trade policy making processes at national and regional levels. Fifty three data collectors are currently working at these border posts.
The SSCBTI is funded under the 11th European Union Development (EDF) to address the main challenges at the borders, which limit the growth of small-scale businesses and force people to trade informally.
Studies have shown that small scale cross border trade contributes significantly to income generation and job creation for a vast part of COMESA’s poor population that would otherwise be excluded from any economic activity.
The trade also contributes to regional food security, through facilitating movement of food items from regions of surplus to deficit and remote areas.
According to European Development Fund Manager, at COMESA, Ms Mshuka Kamwela said:
“The SSCBTI project has taken every step to support the key stakeholders in this unprecedented situation and reacting and responding to the realities being seen at the borders right now is one such support.”