The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) will develop an online platform for exchanging information on the availability of essential products within its member states.
The decision was one of several key decisions made by the extra-ordinary meeting of the COMESA Council of Ministers, held online, on Thursday.
The move comes as part of its response measures to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has caused a large-scale shift to the online medium.
The virtual meeting was convened to approve a coordinated set of regional guidelines developed to facilitate movement of goods and services across the region during the pandemic.
The meeting brought together ministers in charge of coordinating COMESA activities at the national level. They underscored the need for an online information exchange platform on the availability of essential products within COMESA member states during and after the coronavirus period.
The new guidelines provide common measures and practices that will be applied across the 21 COMESA countries. In developing the guidelines, reference was made to those of the East African Community (EAC), the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), and African Union (AU). With those references in place, a seamless application of trade measures in the region could be created.
The guidelines will address disruptions in the regional supply of essential goods, which have been attributed to the many coronavirus measures being applied in member states. Such disruptions have affected the flow of essential commodities, including food and pharmaceutical commodities.
Under the guidelines, member states will electronically publish any newly introduced trade and customs related measures in response to the pandemic. These will be shared periodically with the COMESA Secretariat.
An indicative list of essential goods based on the latest editions of the World Customs Organization (WCO) Harmonized System (HS) classifications will also be published to ease customs clearance and border requirements.
The guidelines provide common measures and practices to be applied across the COMESA region.
They also cover cross-border movement of relief and essential supplies, transportation of goods and cross border freight transport operations. Alongside this, there will be regulation and control of trucks and vehicles, aircraft and vessels carrying essential goods and services.
COMESA is a regional economic community that was established in 1994. It brings together 21 African Member States, with a population of 560 million people, into a cooperative framework for sustainable economic growth and prosperity through regional integration.