Comesa to set up team on digital free trade area
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) plans to set up a team to oversee the implementation of the Digital Free Trade Area (DFTA). The DFTA is an online platform for trade facilitation comprising three segments namely electronic trade (e-trade,) e-logistics, and e-legislation. The e-trade aims at promoting electronic commerce by providing a platform for traders in the Comesa bloc to conduct business online.
The e-logistics segment uses ICT as a tool to improve transportation of goods to customers, while e-legislation looks at the preparedness of countries to put in place laws that enable them to carry out e-transactions and e-payments. “The DFTA platform will enable duty-free and quota-free trading and provide an online regional market. Hence, it will empower cross border traders to do business using ICT thereby minimising physical barriers,” said the Comesa in a statement.
The sub-committee, which will be made up of members of trade, ICT and other relevant ministries in member states will be charged with the responsibility of ensuring that Comesa realises the dream of achieving a digital free trade area. The decision was reached during a council of ministers meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, last week. The ministers also allowed the including of other stakeholders in the committee, including the private sector, to hasten implementation.
The council instructed the Comesa secretariat to finalise DFTA gap analysis in member states by the end of this year. The DFTA will require both technological and legal inputs, especially in the fields of intellectual property, competition, data privacy and protection, and cyber security.
Speaking during the meeting, outgoing Comesa Secretary-General Sindiso Ngwenya emphasised the significance of embracing technology in regional integration and trade facilitation. “The digital applications will see the 21 century moving from national processes and controls to virtual regional and global processes that eliminate fragmented national border controls through the application of the block chain technology,” Mr Ngwenya said. “This is a distributive ledger for sharing information between and among different parties,” he added. This year’s summit was themed Comesa Towards Digital Economic Integration.