In the region, goods are transported through 10 major corridors, namely Northern, North–South, Dar Central, Dar es Salaam, Nacala, Beira, Maputo, Trans Kalahari, Trans Caprivi, and Trans Cunene. The large number of border post and roadblocks along those corridors and the inefficiency of the procedures are overwhelmingly costly to traders and businesses in the sub-region.
While the regional integration agenda seeks to create seamless borders within member states in COMESA, several impediments still prevail, such as prolonged transit times, numerous roadblocks, inefficiencies in technology. To maximize the gains from regional and global trade there is need to identify and tackle the constraints that business face in cross border trade.
The customs environment in the COMESA region is characterized by limited coordination between the multiple government agencies on both sides of borders and duplication of procedures at each border, which increases the potential for fraud. Furthermore, limited computerized customs management systems results in lengthy and inefficient manual operations carried out by traders and officials at borders.
The absence of information and awareness on the actual constraints faced by businesses in cross border trade has an impact on informed policy making in the region. There are several studies such as the World Bank Time release studies, and the Doing Business Report that seek to capture some of the costs of doing business within countries but not at cross border level. A perspective largely missing is the view of the private sector on the business impediments at cross border level. There is need for concerted private sector efforts in the identification of business impediments when conducting cross border trade. The overall object is to ensure improved trade facilitation and reduced costs of doing businesses along the corridors through informed public private dialogue and high level policy engagement.
Under the CBC Transporters and Logistics Services Workgroup, a number of issues have been raised inform of a position paper for industry. These issues mainly focused on hard infrastructure, information technology, risk management, regional cooperation, Regional Bonds, Electronic Tracking, Road safety, Port efficiency, illicit trade, uncompetitive business practices and Public Private Engagement.
Some of the key recommendations have formed regional positions of Industry re:
- The need for the full implementation of the COMESA Trade Facilitation instruments and agreements.
- Increase awareness amongst both public and private sector stakeholders to ensure the above.
- Strengthening implementation mechanisms of COMESA Trade facilitation instruments.
- To adopt regional and corridor approaches in the implementation of trade facilitation instruments.
- Increase Sensitization/training, equipping operators and stakeholders as this facilitates smooth implementation of trade facilitation instruments at national level.
The Business Trader Observer is an annual survey developed from industry inputs on business impediments faced in import and export trade with a keen focus on addressing corruption, illicit trade, unfair practices, cumbersome administrative procedures and business costs while trading at a trans-boundary and national level. The BTI will inform public- private efforts through business intervention, to promote timeliness, efficiency, and reduce costly procedures to business and trade facilitation services to industry. The BTI will serve as an instrument that will inform the dialogues to ensure that the issues raised are addressed and removed at the policy and regulatory effort through public- private intervention.
The findings aim to;
- Capture difficulties experienced in trading along the corridors (imports and exports of goods) in the region in order to target reforms on policies and regulations that will enhance efficiency improvements and increase intra-COMESA trade.
- Inform CBC advocacy efforts on business and trade facilitation at a regional level. This instrument will be updated annually though similar site visits.
- The results will be presented will inform the annual CBC Public- Private Dialogue known as the COMESA Business Forum.
- A consultative process with the private sector users of the corridors on their business impediments.
- Strengthen national business organizations to join forces and influence policy makers to address key obstacles to business growth
- Set priorities on the legislative and regulatory instruments that can stimulate investment and business growth
- Mobilize political will and actions within the region to initiate and implement policy and institutional reforms so as to create a business friendly market.