COMESA, SADC, and the EAC have adopted common transport and trade guidelines to use during the pandemic. The tripartite guidelines will facilitate the safe movement of goods and services and contain the pandemic within the three trading blocs. It is also an opportunity towards the achievement of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) signed in 2015.
According to the trade guidelines, member countries will now treat truck drivers who test positive for COVID-19 in the partner country as opposed to repatriating the crew to the country of origin.
Speaking during the harmonization of the trade protocols, COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Task Force Chairperson Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax noted that mobility restrictions during the pandemic have resulted in shortages of goods, thus higher cost of doing business.
Similarly, cross border restrictions have led to the stigmatization of truck drivers which threatens efforts to contain the virus. Dr tax, therefore, called for harmonized guidelines for the movement of goods and people, to tackle these challenges, and others to stimulate traffic in the region.
Drivers are to use gazetted transit routes along the transport corridor and interconnecting roads. Governments in the region will also designate specific points in the route to allow drivers to recuperate, without risking contact with local communities.
The tripartite trade guidelines urge member states to introduce and enhance the pre-clearance of goods and adapt common surveillance systems for both drivers and trucks. Leaders in the regional blocs have also called shipping lines to waive charges on container delays and costs for handling essential goods during the pandemic.