The Second World Customs Organization East and Southern Africa Regional Conference kicked off in Nairobi with delegates from COMESA, IGAD and SADC regions discussing the Impacts and the Implication of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
The World Customs Organization Regional Training Centre (WCO RTC Kenya) hosted the region’s senior delegates in the conference with the aim of progressing the trade facilitation agenda, within the WCO Mercator framework at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies.
The conference pulled together countries that included Belgium, Ethiopia, South Africa, Malawi, Rwanda, Australia, Mauritius, Botswana, Comoros, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Uganda and Tanzania.
The keynote speaker, the immediate former Deputy Chairperson Africa Union Commission Mr. Erastus Mwencha sensitized on the need of implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement to reduce cross-border trade costs. He noted that the efficiency of trade within the region would hinge on the support of the African continent in simplifying challenges facing regional efforts to harmonize intraregional trade.
“We must minimize cross-border costs in Africa. Globally, when the Trade Facilitation Agreement was introduced, it shows that if the TFA is implemented optimally, there will be a cost reduction of upto 14 per cent. This will add to the global trade value of about 1 trillion dollars; therefore, adding to the global GDP of about 75 trillion. This is a major contribution. The TFA also brings about new markets. When African countries trade amongst each other, for example, the tariff is about 12 per cent but when Africa trades the rest of the world, the tariff’s drops to 8 per cent. Implementing the TFA addresses these challenges. Cost reduction gains our regions markets to trade therefore optimizing resource allocation.”
The conference also touched on the handling and logistics tied to cross border trade. Mr. Mwencha added that the cross border trade would need to be simplified. This included harmonization of customs procedures, deepening standards of IT innovation and utilization to enforce the TFA’s and regional trading agreements in the ESA region.
The Regional Training Centre Kenya Chair and the Kenya Revenue School of Administration Commissioner, Ms. Beatrice Memo echoed the remarks of the former AU Deputy Chairperson.
“Our countries in Africa possess complimentary synergies in terms of their competitive advantages. It is this diversity that we must leverage on to grow our economies. In light of this, we need to open our borders to facilitate the growth as customs is now considered a global village. It is for this reason that KESRA agreed to co-host this conference with the World Customs Organization East and Southern Africa Regional Office for Capacity Building (WCO ESA ROCB) with a view of sharing experiences and find a solution for the African market challenges.”
The trade facilitation Agreement conference also on day one discussed topics on securing and facilitating trade in East and Southern Africa. Delegates noted that there was an increasing vulnerability of global supply chain in the midst of best efforts to facilitate trade, counter terrorism strategies, passenger controls and E- commerce as a driver for economic growth in the East and Southern Africa region.
The second day of the conference will host the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Secretary General Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi who will elaborate on the steps that the United Nations is taking to accelerate regional development through cross border trade facilitation at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies.