The value of goods traded within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) region surged by 10 percent last year, primarily attributable to the successful reduction of non-tariff barriers.

This surge, as reported by Comesa, underscores the efficacy of its trade facilitation programs, particularly the seamless integration of automated and digitalised customs systems, the Simplified Trade Regime, and the Tripartite online Non-Tariff Barriers reporting, monitoring, and elimination mechanism.

Chileshe Kapwepwe, the Secretary General of Comesa, also highlighted the success achieved in global exports, which registered a 15 percent growth, with the imports sourced from the regional market securing a noteworthy fourth position, surging by 27 percent in 2022.

During the ongoing 44th Comesa Council of Ministers in Lusaka, Zambia, Ms Kapwepwe highlighted the organisation’s commitment to facilitating the smooth movement of vehicles, goods, and individuals within its Member States and beyond.

This commitment, she said, is realised through the implementation of the Yellow Card and the Regional Customs Transit Guarantee (RCTG) Scheme.

Key accomplishments of Comesa’s regional integration agenda were underscored during the meeting, focusing on critical pillars such as market integration, physical connectivity, productive integration (industry and agriculture), and gender and social integration.

In collaboration with the African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK), Comesa unveiled an Online Platform for COMESA Negotiations of Trade in Services.

Launched at the meeting, the platform aims to expedite negotiations, enhance the technical quality of offers, increase transparency, and uphold the confidentiality of exchanged information between parties.

The successful trajectory of Comesa’s regional integration is attributed significantly to the support from development partners, that include European Union, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank.

Secretary General Kapwepwe expressed gratitude, noting that without their assistance, the organisation’s programmes would face considerable challenges.

As the chief guest, Vice President of Zambia, Mutale Nalumango, stressed the imperative for the region to prioritise and refocus on key areas contributing to development, productivity, and competitiveness.

She highlighted the importance of value addition, diversification, and the integration of new technologies, all while mindful of environmental protection.

The ministers, having considered the report and recommendations of the Comesa Intergovernmental Committee preceding their meeting, made decisions aimed at advancing regional integration in the upcoming year.