New Comesa transport guidelines to fight Covid-19

Oliver Kazunga Senior Business Reporter
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has gazetted new regional guidelines to regulate human and cargo movement that member states should implement to fight the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.

The Comesa region is made up of 21 countries including Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tunisia, and Djibouti.

In a position document, Comesa said the guidelines were endorsed three weeks ago by the Comesa ministers responsible for regional trade.

“Comesa has published and gazetted the regional guidelines on the movement of goods and services across the region.

“This heralds the beginning of the implementation of the guidelines across the 21 member States,” said the bloc.

Regional trade has consistently faced difficulties as regional States put in place strict measures to keep the coronavirus away from crossing into their borders, resulting in disruption of cargo movements.

The overriding principle of the guidelines is to apply common measures on trade corridors and border points to safely maintain the flow of goods and services within the region. Comesa said with the publishing of the guidelines, the regional States are expected to domesticate them as part of their national response measures to Covid-19. In this regard, the ministries responsible for coordinating the implementation of Comesa programmes in member States will lead in the application of the guidelines and ensure their provisions inform decision-making at the national Covid-19 response committees. The regional private sector including freight companies is some of the core stakeholders that have been adversely affected by the Covid-19.

The guidelines thus provide a basis to engage respective governments to implement the recommendations to address the current challenges affecting the flow of goods and services within the region.

“The Covid-19 crisis has brought to the fore the challenge of protecting the health of the population whilst avoiding undue disruptions to the free movement of persons and the delivery of goods and essential services across the region,” Comesa director of trade, Dr Christopher Onyango was quoted as saying.

In adopting the guidelines, the ministers acknowledged that despite the incidence of the pandemic, the implementation of the common market policies on the movement of goods, services and persons should continue to be governed by the principle of market integration and regional cooperation.

Through development and issuing of the guidelines, Comesa expects to rally the collective interest of all its member states to ensure that trade routes (road, rail, air and sea freight) remain open to facilitate the flow of goods, including essential supplies.

Given the overlapping membership of regional countries to other regional economic communities, the Comesa guidelines considered similar guidelines developed by East African Community and Sadc in response to the Covid-19 to ensure they complement and not conflict.

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