COVID-19 has exacerbated the non-tariff barrier restrictions on free movement of persons, according to the Chairperson of the COMESA Business Council, Mr. Marday Venkatasamy.
Speaking during the 16th CBC Board meeting conducted virtually on 1st July 2021, Mr. Venkatasamy said this was due to the emerging discriminatory practice of certain approved World Health Organization (WHO) vaccines being a prerequisite for international travel.
“The business community requests an appeal by the African Union against this inequitable practice,” he added pointing out that the practice was coming at the time when Africa is exploring ways of developing its own vaccines.
To address some of the current constraints, Secretary General of COMESA, Chileshe Kapwepwe, said the COMESA Secretariat collaborated with CBC in developing regional guidelines on the movement of essential goods and services across the region during the current pandemic period.
“This underscores the importance for consistent involvement and advocacy of the private sector in policy making processes and public-private dialogue to address some of the notable challenges in regional trade,” she stated when she addressed the meeting.
She said digitization of industry remains a core pre-requisite for promoting trade and regional integration especially within this pandemic period, where there is a greater call for improving regional supply chains to advance industrialization and increase trade among COMESA countries.
In a performance report for 2020, presented at the meeting, the CBC had achieved several milestones in the midst of the pandemic including the establishment of the CBC Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Workgroup.
A regional Public-Private Dialogue on Digital Financial Inclusion was conducted in January 2021, which brought together over 200 industry players to deliberate on policy areas for harmonization and to inform the Model COMESA Digital Common Payments Policy for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
Besides the CBC Board of Directors, the meeting was attended by Presidents and Chief Executives of national apex private sector Associations and Chambers of Commerce from the COMESA region, key business leaders from Mauritius, Sudan, Kenya, Egypt, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Seychelles.