By Bahle Gama
Between 2008 and 2018, intraregional trade rose by more than four percentage points, from 15.2 per cent to 19.5 per cent, in the SADC region, and analysts have observed that it will further be boosted to over 20 per cent following the launch of the electronic certificate of origin (e-CoO). Meluleki Dlamini, the MSME Unit Director in the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Trade is one of those who are of the view that this initiative will increase trade among member states and reduce transactional costs.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) launched, Wednesday (September 7) its electronic certificate of origin (e-CoO) to facilitate intra-regional trade, in Blantrye, Malawi. The launch was announced the following day in a release published on the community’s website.
The electronic certificate will replace the manual one. It is aimed at “simplifying customs procedures, enhancing e-Commerce, eliminating fraud, improving record management and statistical data, reducing cross-border certificate verification time as well as reducing the cost of doing business.”
According to Dlamini the initiative “will improve the way business is conducted in the Region because the challenges that were associated with the manual processing of the certificate will be eliminated.”
e-CoO is an electronic document that will be issued by an authority certifying that goods declared by an exporter or importer comply with specific rules, per criteria set out in the SADC trade protocol. It will initially be implemented in Malawi, Zambia, and Eswatini.
The SADC e-CoO Framework was approved by the Committee of Ministers of Trade in 2019. To date Customs Administrations and Revenue Authorities of Eswatini, Malawi and Zambia have developed their e-CoO modules and the other Member States are working on piloting the Framework.
Dlamini went on to say the e-CoO will encourage those businesses that are currently not exporting to start doing business across borders as trade would now be much easier, safer, and affordable.
The director further stated that it will be the Unit’s responsibility to educate small and medium enterprises around the country about these electronic certificates and their benefits to their businesses.
“We will ensure that the local businesses are sensitized so that we all move together, and no one is left behind, considering that we are now living in the fourth industrial revolution, and everything is digital,” said the Director.
SADC Secretariat Director of Finance, Investment and Customs Sadwick Mtonakutha, the system will be fully rolled out to the entire region by 2024
He said the system also complements the dream of the AfCTA and SADC being a block, contributes immensely to the continental picture and in this case, the e-certificate of origin is just part of consolidating the SADC free trade area which is a building block to a continental free trade area.
On Tuesday, July 5, the community announced the development of new measures to address issues that increase transaction costs. The measures, which aim to boost intra-regional trades, include the simplification and harmonization of trade documents. They also include improving transparency in the operations of regulatory agencies, harmonizing standards and technical regulations, harmonizing sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, monitoring, and resolving non-tariff barriers (NTBs), and improving the business environments.
In addition, they plan to build the North-South Corridor (NSC) during the 2021/2022 fiscal years. The corridor will connect the South African port of Durban to Lusaka (Zambia), Lubumbashi (DRC), Lilongwe, and Blantyre (Malawi) via Johannesburg (South Africa) Botswana, and Zimbabwe.