By Our Reporter
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has developed an online portal to be used by Member States to exchange information on availability of essential products within the region. This is in response to a directive issued by the COMESA Council of Ministers in May this year to develop the platform to support regional trade, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Secretary General Ms. Chileshe Kapwepwe launched the prototype platform to representatives of Member States, during a virtual meeting today. The focal points will coordinate with the private sector in populating the platform with information on essential supplies. This is expected to boost local production and address shortages in supply from outside the region.
Ms. Kapwepwe said the platform will enable Member States to share information on availability of products and their potential to produce and supply all different types of goods. It will connect buyers to suppliers of essential goods thereby promoting and fostering regional intra-COMESA trade.
As part of the roll out and implementation of the platform, the Secretariat conducted a training programme considering that multiple stakeholder use is needed to make it versatile, functional and sustainable.
She said the platform will also help small-scale cross-border traders and SMEs to have access to market information and linking producers, sellers and buyers. She noted that measures being implemented by Member States such as closing borders to prevent the spread of the pandemic are slowing down economic activity and have severely impacted cross border trade.
The official said the implementation of the Digital Trade Facilitation programme and other instruments and the liberalization of services remained core to strengthening the stability of the COMESA region against external shocks.
“Over the mid-to long-term, disruption in supply chains could lead to filling of the gap by regional producers and hence the need to strengthen and fully implement the Free Trade Area,” she said. “The successful implementation of the online platform will no doubt be an important step towards realization of COMESA Digital Free Trade Area initiatives.”
COMESA’s strategy in combating Covid-19 include the need to strengthen openness, coordination and collective approach by Member States in facilitating movement of goods and services amidst restrictive measures, and safeguarding the existing trading arrangements and avoid erosion of gains already made as far as liberalization of trade and investments.