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Senior government officials and experts to discuss trade facilitation in Southern Africa

Senior government officials and experts to discuss trade facilitation in Southern Africa
Photo credit: CCTTFA

09 Oct 2017

The Economic Commission for Africa office for Southern Africa will organize the Twenty Third Session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) of Southern Africa on the theme “Trade Facilitation in Southern Africa: Bridging the Infrastructure Gap” on 26-27 October, 2017 at the Holiday Inn in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The 23rd ICE of Southern Africa will be hosted by the Government of Zimbabwe.

The 23rd ICE follows the successful 22nd Session hosted by the Government of Malawi on 17-18 March 2016 in Lilongwe, under the theme “Implementing the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap: Options and Prospects” and come up with recommendations to accelerate implementation through domestication of regional aspirations.

Trade facilitation and the challenges thereof will be the focus of the 23rd session. The meeting will interrogate these challenges which collectively contribute to high transportation and logistics costs, which significantly constrains and impede efficient intra-regional trade; as well proffer recommendations.

Participants will include senior government officials, private sector representatives, civil society organizations, representatives of regional economic communities, academia and research institutions and other UN agencies among others.

In addition, the session will review the economic and social conditions in Southern Africa; consider and endorse the implementation of the programme of work of the ECA Southern Africa Sub-Regional Office, the programme of work and the budget for 2018; and discuss the implementation of regional and international agendas in the sub region focusing on Agenda 2030. The delegates will recommend strategies towards ensuring that the work of ECA is aligned to member States’ and RECs’ priorities.

The 23rd ICE will be preceded by the Ad-hoc Expert Group Meeting (AEGM) on “Deepening Regional Integration in Southern Africa: The Role, Prospects and Progress of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA)”, on 23-24 October 2017 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, at the same venue.

Participants at the AEGM constituting experts in regional integration, senior government officials and representatives of regional economic communities will deliberate on the theme and identify the opportunities from enhanced integration. Recommendations towards addressing the challenges with regard to the implementation of the TFTA milestones will be made.


Background

The volume and flow of trade is affected by various internal and external factors including tariff and non-tariff barriers, the quality and quantity of physical and nonphysical infrastructure and the market structure of the relevant service providers.

This ICE session will interrogate these challenges which collectively contribute to increased transportation and logistics costs are impediments to efficient trade. For landlocked countries in Southern Africa: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, additional peculiar challenges to efficient trade include the high transit and trade transaction costs due to the lack of territorial access to the sea and remoteness from major international markets. This further erodes competitiveness of tradeables from these countries. The logistics costs of landlocked countries are double those of other emerging economies and three times those for developed countries and such high transport costs are more restrictive to trade than tariffs barriers.

The focus of initiatives to address the trade facilitation challenges world-wide has been on improving both physical and non-physical infrastructure and strengthening cross border cooperation. In addition to addressing gaps in physical infrastructure such as roads, rail, inland waterways, non-physical infrastructure bottlenecks such as high trade transactions costs, trade facilitation inefficiencies, rentseeking activities by service providers along trade routes, inefficient and bureaucratic procedures inefficient private sector services along routes, deficiencies in supply chains and deficiency in trade and transport policies have also been part of the focus of strategies to enhance efficiency.

Measures to address soft infrastructure issues such as simplifying export requirements, harmonizing procedures and documentation, standardizing commercial practices, reducing bureaucratic interference and police roadblocks on transit routes and improving transport logistics, development of road customs transit documents, customs bond guarantee schemes, harmonized vehicle weights and dimensions and road transit charges have been implemented as part of regional strategies to enhance trade.

Similarly, hard infrastructure to facilitate trade flows such as construction of one stop border posts and dry ports, improvement in roads and rail systems, energy and power, roadside facilities and intermodal facilities are being implemented across Southern Africa. However, infrastructure gaps still exist and the 23rd ICE will provide a platform to reflect further on strategies to close such gaps in order to improve trade flows and overall trade competitiveness.