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The African Development Bank and the Secretariat of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) held a workshop for validation of the COMESA Time Release Study (TRS) Report on May 24 and 25, 2017 in Lusaka, Zambia.
The TRS Survey was conducted in 10 COMESA Member Countries (Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Sudan, Uganda and Zambia). The TRS is a World Customs Organisation (WCO) tool used for measuring the actual performance of customs and all other border agencies in facilitating the movement of goods and the means of transport across borders. The TRS measures aspects of the effectiveness of operational procedures that are carried out by customs and other regulatory border agencies concerned with processing of imports, exports and goods in transit.
The objective of the workshop was to enable COMESA Member States to discuss the findings and recommendations of the TRS Report and to further discuss a way forward in addressing the constraints and bottlenecks affecting trade in the COMESA region. Hence the workshop targeted all COMESA countries including those that did not take part in the study.
In opening the workshop, the Bank’s Country Manager for Zambia, Damoni Kitabire urged COMESA countries and the COMESA Secretariat to implement regulatory reforms in order to reduce the costs of cross-border trade in the region. COMESA countries are expected to develop a roadmap to address some of the bottlenecks identified by the study and improve trade facilitation in the region.
Speaking on behalf of the Secretary General of the COMESA Secretariat, Zerezghi Kidane reiterated that the recommendations of the TRS report will be shared with the COMESA Heads of Customs to enable further action on addressing the identified gaps and improving trade facilitation as part of the wider COMESA Customs and Trade Work programme 2018-2020.
Intra-Africa trade remains low at about 16 per cent, much lower than in other regions. In Europe, internal trade is at 60 per cent; in Asia is stands at 24 per cent; Latin America and the Caribbean is at 20 percent; while in North America it stands at 40 per cent.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report estimates that implementing minimum reforms as prescribed under the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), low-income countries stand to benefit more as much-needed reforms may reduce the costs by a substantial 12.6 per cent. For African countries to reap dividends of trade liberalisation, these bottlenecks must be addressed.
Issues and challenges identified by the study include ineffective border management procedures and practices, inadequate infrastructure and staffing of border posts. Errors in the declarations resulting in long waiting times at border posts, and differences in border post operating hours between neighbouring countries also add to the cost of cross-border transactions.
The COMESA TRS Project is funded by the African Development Bank through a grant from the Government of Japan’s Policy and Human Resource Development Trust Fund.