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Comesa completes trade restructuring

THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has completed a restructuring exercise aimed at implementing trade-related agreements among member states.


Analysts argue that despite promises on agreements made at council and summit meetings for the various African regional economic communities, little has been done in terms of implementation at national level.

Agreements made include creation of a customs union, trade facilitation and ease of movement of business persons across borders among others, but little has been achieved.

The reasons for lack of implementation are never known.

Comesa secretary-general, Sindiso Ngwenya said under such a strategy, the member state needs to first understand the costs and benefits of Customs Union, the Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) agreement and even the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) to be able to implement them.

“Once this has been ascertained, they need to determine what policies, programmes, agencies, laws and structures are already in place to actually implement these trade agreements,” he said.

Ngwenya said there needs to be a programme in place that allows the member states to make the transition from where they are now to where they need to be in terms of structures, agencies and laws.
Bureaucracy continues to be a major barrier to commerce in southern Africa.

According to the African Development Bank, it can take up to three days to move cargo through the customs post at Victoria Falls from Zambia into Zimbabwe.

“The major challenge to deepening regional integration in Africa is not the lack of vision or appropriate policies; rather it is a lack of implementation of sector-wide policies,” Ngwenya said.

The World Bank measures what it terms the “thickness” of borders based on average tariffs, capital openness, proportion of countries that need a visa to visit, among other indices.

Ngwenya said borders within Comesa were thick and have not noticeably been reduced in thickness in the last few years despite policies and policy statements made to create a single market in Africa.

However, Ngwenya’s remarks come at a time when an agreement aimed at simplifying procedures for doing business across borders has been reached at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Termed the Bali package as it was signed in Indonesia, the core of the agreement is trade facilitation or cutting bureaucracy.

Developing member states of the WTO, Zimbabwe included, will be enabled to sell their goods more easily to other nations.

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