By Chimwemwe Mangazi:
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has embarked on an initiative to establish a Digital Free Trade Area (DFTA) which is expected to create a $17.2 billion-worth market for member states.
This was revealed Monday at the opening of a three-day meeting for regional delegates.
The Comesa DFTA would comprise a number of digital instruments to support trade among Comesa member states, including an electronic certificate of origin, underpinned by block chain technology and a mobile application for cross-border traders.
Comesa announced in November 2017 that its secretariat had designed the digital free trade area and that an electronic certification arrangement was ready for use.
Comesa Director of Trade and Customs, Francis Mangeni, said the initiative will take off soon.
Mangeni said the electronic certificate of origin for the block would be commissioned at the end of the meeting.
“Under this initiative, different digital systems that are used in member states will be linked so that all the processes will be completed at the click of a button,” Mangeni said.
Director of Administration and Finance in the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, Joseph Mkandawire, said the initiative would enhance regional integration and reduce the cost of doing business.
The initiative is also aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness among regional traders.
“This platform will link all member states digitally. For example, there will be a trade portal, where traders can easily access information. So, we want to make sure that we can speak the same language,” Mkandawire said.
He said Malawi was treading carefully before it agrees to the conditions stipulated in the rules of origin to ensure that local traders benefit from the deal.