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Small traders await COMESA breakthrough

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 21- Trade among small scale dealers in the COMESA region is set to increase significantly once a list of products that will be traded across common borders is agreed upon.

COMESA Assistant Secretary General for Programmes Stephen Karangizi told Capital Business on Wednesday that about 10 countries in COMESA were discussing ways of implementing the Simplified Trade Regime (STR) which would help remove the barriers faced by informal traders.

“Without the common list, sometimes the traders are not able to trade in some goods because they say the goods are not covered and so on. But we have put this initiative in place to increase transparency,” he said.

The regime, which applies to consignment of less than Sh37,500 ($500) will be operationalised once the simplified certificate of origin, customs document and the common list are gazetted at the national level.

The COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA) has been blamed for facilitating trade for the large and medium players while locking out goods by small traders.

Studies suggest that cross-border trade goes largely unrecorded and could account for up to 50 percent of the current value of formal trade.

Thus the STR is expected to promote an enabling environment for cross border traders to exploit the regional opportunities by addressing their challenges.

“The regime is expected to reduce smuggling and use of unauthorised routes as there will be incentive for informal traders to use formal channels and there will no longer be any reason for them to smuggle goods across borders or to bribe border officials,” Mr Karangizi stressed.

However the Secretariat recognizes that the implementation of this initiative is only a first step towards the removal of all barriers to trade.

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When the system is formalised, the Assistant SG said, it would make it easier for agricultural products to meet the Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary Products requirements which would accelerate the free flow of these products across the region and greatly boost the sector.

Speaking during a meeting to discuss ways on how to reach consensus, Trade Minister Amos Kimunya said the East African Countries had embarked on the implementation process and urged their counterparts to do the same in order to achieve a seamless set of simple rules.

“It is necessary that there should be collaboration and harmonization of efforts between EAC and COMESA,” he said through his Permanent Secretary Abdulrazak Aden.

The minister reaffirmed the country’s commitment to fully implement the program which is one of the efforts that the government is undertaking to alleviate poverty in the country.

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