In light of the various disruptions to business and supply chains across the region due to COVID-19, it is crucial that we support regional production and trade of essential supplies such as masks and sanitizers; furthermore, address the challenges regarding air cargo logistics within COMESA, Marday Venkatasamy, the COMESA Business Council Chairperson has said.
Venkatasamy, during the 14th meeting of the COMESA Business Council(CBC) Board of Directors, held virtually, called for strengthened growth and sustainability, considering the institution’s consolidated income of US$1,825,492 for the year and a surplus of US$510,395.00 at year-end.
He reiterated the commitment of the private sector to ensure constant participation in the regional integration agenda and influence policy to the interests of businesses in COMESA.
COMESA Secretary General, Chileshe Kapwepwe, recognized the need for increased partnership between COMESA and the CBC in the fulfilment of the objectives of the COMESA Treaty to support private sector development and competitiveness, emphasizing the importance of concerted efforts for COVID-19 response mechanisms working with the private sector.
During the Board meeting, the business associations engaged with the COMESA Secretary-General on the challenges related to the movement of goods at the borders, due to the containment measures put in place to curb COVI9-19.
The CBC highlighted the regional Business Position Statement that was presented to COMESA and further informed the development of the COMESA Regional Guidelines for the movement of essential goods and services.
Dr Khaled Magboul of the Sudan Chambers of Commerce shared various experiences on systems that have been put in place to facilitate the continued trade flows, including relay system for logistics and transporters at the Sudan-Egypt borders.
Robert Bafakulera – Rwanda Private Sector Federation, noted the most recent challenges at the Rusumo border post between Rwanda and Tanzania that has seen the delay of movement of goods due to closure of borders.
He noted that bilateral negotiations were ongoing and seemed successful.
Venkatasamy noted that local production capacity should be enhanced as Africa can be an alternative source market for essential medical supplies.
He further noted that Mauritius currently manufactures over 1 million masks a day which could be supplied into the region.
The Board recommended that COMESA implements an instant border measures inquiry, reporting and monitoring platform consisting of border coordination platform that supports notification and resolution of impediments in light of the increase in challenges that are being met at the border.
The Board further recommended the development of a regional database of suppliers of essential products and medical supplies to address the gaps within the countries.
Affirming the above, the COMESA Secretary-General, noted that harmonized approaches towards addressing the measures have been put in place, and further highlighted that the third Extra-Ordinary meeting of the COMESA Council of Ministers meeting adopted regional guidelines to address the border corridor impediments. She further informed the meeting of consolidated efforts by COMESA and the AU to facilitate increased production capacity and trade of pharmaceutical products and essential supplies within the region.
She also highlighted the importance of increased information-sharing in order to promote business linkages and regional sourcing of essential supplies in COMESA.
The 14th CBC Board meeting further considered key issues on the CBC policy agendas including the reports on Promoting Agro-Industry Supply Chains along the Transport Corridors of Eastern and Southern; the Business Trader Observer (BTO): An Annual Survey of Business Impediments Along Trade and Transport Corridors in COMESA; the Regional Code on Anti-Corruption Compliance for Enterprises; and the Digital Financial Inclusion- Business Case report on a regional digital common payments scheme for MSMEs.