A major constraint to economic development, poverty alleviation and job creation in the COMESA-EAC-SADC region of Africa is the high cost of doing business, including the costs arising from moving traded goods across border crossings.
Trade Facilitation refers to improvements to procedures governing the movement of goods across borders in order to reduce the cost of trade, maximise efficiency and safeguarde legitimate regulations.
The cost of transport, in particular road transport, is directly related to the time taken for a journey. The longer a journey takes, the higher the transportation costs - which lead to higher production costs, less competitive member states and a less competitive region.
Until the underlying causes of the high costs of trade and transport in Africa are addressed, African countries will remain high-cost producers, with no major direct investments taking place in non-mineral sectors, restricted economic growth opportunities and slow progress being made in poverty alleviation.
In an effort to address these challenges the Member States of the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) launched negotiations for the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area on 12th June 2011. The Tripartite Free Trade Area aims to reduce tariffs imposed on goods originating and traded in the region.
However, in addition to tariff barriers, the region’s producers and traders also face a number of non-tariff barriers and high cross-border trade and transport costs. An integral part of the Tripartite Free Trade Area is the design and implementation of a trade facilitation programme that is aimed at improving trade and transport measures and reducing non-tariff barriers to trade.
While COMESA, EAC and SADC have had some successes in trade facilitation through individual REC programmes, there have been challenges, including the requirement to implement different trade facilitation programmes and different instruments in countries that belong to more than one REC.
To address these challenges the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite has launched the Comprehensive Trade and Transport Facilitation Programme (CTTTFP) which is a series of initiatives from different Regional Economic Communities that have been brought together into one large integrated trade facilitation programme. TMSA provides support on the following CTTTFP projects: