Small Scale cross border traders are the key beneficiaries of new projects aimed at increasing formal small-scale cross border trade flows in the COMESA, EAC and SADC Tripartite region.
The first is a 15 million euros Regional Small-Scale Cross Border Trade Initiative (SSCBTI) project, while the second is a 53m euro Trade Facilitation Project. These are funded by the European Union under the 11th European Union Development Fund (EDF 11).
The inaugural meeting of the Project Steering Committee (PSC) began on Monday in Lusaka, Zambia. The PSC will provide the overall policy and strategic guidance on the implementation of the projects and specifically, to coordinate implementation among various actors, who have been delegated and co-delegated to handle various aspects of the programme.
Fifteen Member States were represented at the meeting including Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Implementation of the two projects is expected to contribute to higher revenue collection for governments at the borders, increased security and improved incomes for traders.
The SSCBT initiative is designed to address challenges facing small scale traders which include high transactions costs arising from delays at the border, high taxes and high transport costs; corruption and harassment among others. In the COMESA region, small cross border trade accounts for 30 to 40% of total trade.
“These challenges are the basis for the COMESA Cross Border Trade Initiative which the programme aims to address and thus facilitate and formalize this trade,” said Dr Kipyego Cheluget, Assistant Secretary-General in charge of COMESA programmes when talking to delegates.
At the meeting, it was observed that representatives of the cross-border trade are not fully equipped to defend the interests of their members; there is no adequate data (disaggregated by gender) to fully understand small scale informal trade and there is lack of adequate border infrastructure to cater for small scale cross border trade.
The Trade Facilitation Programme aims at increasing intra-regional trade flows of goods, persons and services by reducing the costs and delays of imports and exports at specific border posts.
This will be addressed through reduction of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), implementation of digital Free Trade Area (DFTA), World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO TFA), improvements of the Coordinated Border Management (CBM) and liberalization of Trade in Services and free movement of persons.
Specific activities of the two programmes have been co-delegated to UN agencies to implement owing to their expertise and competences in the respective areas.
These are; the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
Some activities of the programme will be for the whole COMESA/Tripartite region while others will be focusing on the targeted borders, namely: Chirundu, (Zambia /Zimbabwe); Mchinji/Mwami, (Malawi/Zambia); Moyale, (Ethiopia /Kenya) Kasumbalesa, (DR Congo/Zambia) and Tunduma/Nakonde, (Tanzania /Zambia).
The PSC is made up of experts from the COMESA Secretariat, who will be the main drivers of the project and will include representatives from the European Union, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the five targeted Member States.
The Head of Cooperation at the European Union delegation to Zambia and COMESA Mr. Gianluca Azzoni stressed the need for effective coordination in the programme implementation between COMESA, the Member States and the Multilateral agencies involved in the implementation.