COMESA Secretariat is implementing programmes to improve the transport and communications systems of the region as well as improve information available to business persons wishing to trade both within the region and beyond. They include the following:
Harmonized Road Transit Charges
The Road Transit Charges system was introduced in 1991 (currently being implemented by Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and specifies that heavy goods trucks with more than 3 axles should pay a road charge of US $10 per 100 km; trucks with up to 3 axles should pay a charge of US $6 per 100 km; and buses with a capacity of more than 25 passengers pay US $5 per 100 km.
COMESA Carrier’s License
The COMESA Carrier’s License allows commercial goods vehicles to be licensed, with one license, which is valid throughout the region so that the vehicles can operate in all Member States. This means that vehicles can pick up back-loads in other countries which make more efficient use of the region’s transport fleet so reduces the cost of trade. The license was introduced in 1991 and is currently in operation in 11 mainland countries (Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Eswatini, , Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe).
Harmonized Axle Loading and Maximum Vehicle Dimensions
Axle load limits are:
- single steering axle = 8 tons
- single load or drive axle = 10 tons
- tandem axle group = 16 tons
- triple axel group = 24 tons
- The maximum load limit is 56 tons
The maximum vehicle dimensions approved by the COMESA Authority (and currently implemented by Malawi, Eswatini, Zambia and Zimbabwe) are:
- 5m for a rigid chassis single vehicle or trailer;
- 17m for articulated vehicles;
- 22m for truck and draw-bar trailer;
- 65 maximum width; and
- 60 maximum height
One Stop Border Posts (OSBP)
The Chirundu One Stop Border Post (OSBP) was launched in December 2009 through a Bilateral Agreement between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is the first functioning OSBP in Africa. The main objective of the Chirundu OSBP was to facilitate trade by reducing the processing time at the border and hence reduce cross-border transactions and enhance the region’s competitiveness. A juxtaposed OSBP was implemented at Chirundu where a common control zone was created for border agencies to share facilities with the aim of eliminating duplication of procedures. Ultimately, a community based computerized system to make the OSBP a single window processing facility would be set up.
The Regional Customs Transit Guarantee Scheme – RCTG-CARNET
The COMESA Customs Transit Guarantee Scheme, popularly known as the RCTG-CARNET is a Customs transit regime designed to facilitate the movement of transit goods under Customs seals in the COMESA region. The RCTG is a component of the COMESA Protocol on Transit Trade and Transit Facilitation, Annex I of COMESA Treaty that provides, inter-alia, for all Member States to implement transit and customs measures to remove trade and transport barriers in the region.
The RCTG Agreement was signed and ratified by twelve COMESA Member and non-Member States, namely: Burundi, Djibouti, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Work on developing the modalities of operations and institutional arrangements was started in 2002 and the implementation of the scheme commenced in 2012.
The objective of customs bond guarantees is to ensure that respective governments can recover duties and taxes from the guarantors should the goods in transit be illegally disposed of for home consumption in the country of transit. COMESA Member States agreed to introduce a Regional Customs Bond Guarantee Scheme to address the difficulties experienced by transport operators, freight forwarders and clearing agents and at the same time to offer Customs Administrations a secure regional system of control replacing the nationally executed practices and procedures. At the same time to help protect the revenue of each State through which goods are carried.
The Yellow Card
The COMESA Yellow Card Insurance Scheme is essentially a Regional Third-Party motor vehicle insurance scheme that provides third party legal liability cover and compensation for medical expenses resulting from road traffic accidents caused by visiting motorists. The liability cover offered under this scheme is limited to the statute provisions on road traffic third party liability award limits of the country being visited and or in which an accident occurs. A Yellow Card issued in one COMESA Member State is valid in all other countries participating in the scheme.
The COMESA Yellow Card was established in 1986 after 14 countries signed the Protocol on the Establishment of the Third-Party Motor Vehicle Insurance Scheme in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Subsequently, on April 26, 1987 the Agreement on the implementation of the ThirdParty Motor Vehicle Insurance Scheme, known as the Inter-Bureaux Agreement was signed in Lusaka, Zambia. This was in conformity with the provisions of the Protocol by National Bureaux designated by governments to administer the operations of the Scheme in their countries and the ratification of the Protocol on the establishment of the Third-Party Motor Vehicle Insurance by 11 member countries. These were: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Eswatini, , Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The COMESA Yellow Card Scheme was implemented and started its operations in the above member States while DR Congo, Malawi and Tanzania a non COMESA country joined the scheme later. The yellow card scheme, is operational in thirteen countries and over 200 companies in the region are participating in the scheme.
COMESA Virtual Trade Facilitation System (CVTFS)
The CVTFS is an electronic trade facilitation initiative developed to monitor consignments along different transport corridors across the region. It integrates other COMESA instruments on one online platform including: The Yellow Card (third party motor vehicle insurance); Regional Customs Bond Guarantee System, (RCTG); Transit Data Transfer Module; Carrier License for road freight operators; Harmonized Axle Load, and (Gross Vehicle Mass Limits which includes the COMESA Certificate of Overload Control); and the Customs Declaration Document.
The CVTFS makes use of software that helps interpret all the information on the seal and transmits to a dashboard the container details, the vehicle details, and any other relevant details which appears on a centralized server which you can monitor from anywhere. The seal has a GPS modem that provides the location of goods in real time and a GSM modem to transmit information to a central server and a sensor to detect tampering. The device is fitted on a cargo container carrying the consignment.
CVTFS provides full visibility in real time of all tagged consignments from source to destination; making it an effective solution for cargo tracking management. The system is accessible to Customs authorities, freight forwarders, insurance companies, banks, port authorities, container freight stations and traders to mention but a few.
The system is in currently in use in the Northern Corridor States of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and D R Congo. Other Member states that have so far adopted the use of CVTFS include Ethiopia, Djibouti, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania.
Cyber Security Programme
A reliable, efficient and cost-effective regional telecommunications network would greatly facilitate economic integration in the region.
It is recognized that the existing network is not adequate to meet the needs of the users and the current practice of routing regional telecoms traffic via countries outside the region (mainly in Europe) makes the implementation of competitive tariffs very difficult. To address this problem, COMESA has initiated the establishment of a private, limited liability company (COMTEL) which will build an asynchronous transmission mode (ATM) system which will link national systems together. While gateway to gateway infrastructure is COMTEL’s priority, the national infrastructures are equally important and there is a need for all countries in COMESA to continue to develop and improve national infrastructures.
COMTEL was designed to have a strategic partner holding 30 per cent of its equity with the rest being owned by participating National Telecoms Operators (25% of the equity) and private sector investors (45% equity stake). The estimated investment cost is US $300 million. In this regard, COMESA developed a policy and a model bill on cyber security.
Liberalization of the Skies
COMESA is working with the relevant authorities and the region’s airlines on a programme to remove air traffic controls. The aim is to eventually remove all air traffic controls except for those concerned with safety. Increased competition within regional routes will reduce the cost of air travel and transport and foster greater regional trade. A detailed policy on Air Transport has been adopted by the COMESA Heads of State and Government. The policy takes into account the Yamoussoukro declaration on Air Transport in Africa. The policy has been adopted in collaboration with SADC and EAC to cover the whole Eastern and Southern Africa region. Air Transport Competition Regulations have been developed jointly by the EAC, COMESA and SADC Ministers responsible for air transport. In 2014, COMESA Secretariat secured approximately US $10 million from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to establish a single, seamless airspace in the sub-region. This is intended to reduce air transport costs and increase tourism, trade and regional social economic integration.
Cape to Cairo Electricity Corridor
COMESA is implementing the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya (ZTK) electricity interconnector which links the East African Power Pool (EAPP) and the South African Power Pool (SAPP). The ZTK seeks to connect power systems of the three countries by constructing a high voltage power line from Zambia through Tanzania to Kenya spanning a distance of about 2,300 km. It will realize the Cape to Cairo Electricity highway. It will also pave the way for the establishment of the regional energy market. The main objectives of the project are to promote electivity trade, enhanced security of power supply and faster regional integration.