COMESA has trained its Trade Information Desk Officers (TIDOs) that serve in selected borders in the region, on how to implement the Simplified Trade Regime and ensure the minimum standards for the treatment of small- scale cross border traders are upheld.
This has seen the Sadc region benefited as all the countries selected were from the region
The training was conducted on 23 September 2021 as part of capacity building for TIDOs serving at the following border points: Chirundu (Zambia/Zimbabwe), Kasumbalesa (Zambia/DR Congo), Mwami/Mchinji (Zambia/Malawi) and Nakonde (Zambia/Tanzania).
The training is part of a €15 Million Cross-Border Trade Initiative, financed by the European Union under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) to facilitate small scale trade across borders. The overarching goal of this project is to increase formal small scale cross border trade flows in the region leading to higher revenue collection by governments as well as increased security and higher incomes for small scale cross border traders.
The simplified trade regime (STR), which the TIDOs are expected to promote, was launched in 2010 at the request of the small-scale cross border traders. It was intended to streamline the documentation and procedures for the clearance of small consignments while enabling the traders to also benefit from the COMESA preferential tariffs.
This followed the realization that the gains that accrued from the launch of the COMESA Free Trade Area in 2000, was mainly benefitting the big and established companies that were able to obtain the Certificates of Origin as well as filling in the required customs documents. This was to the exclusion of small-scale traders who cross the borders with small consignments of goods that are meant for sale in their countries.
The trade information desks at the border were thereafter established to assist small scale traders with information on trade and basic border procedures in the context of the STR.
“One of the activities under Cross-Border Trade Initiative is to support the posting and training of Trade Information Desk Officers at the targeted borders, equip the TIDOs to do their job properly and to carry a study on the sustainability of TIDOs,” said the Senior Research Fellow at the COMESA Secretariat, Mr. Benedict Musengele who represented the Director of Trade at the opening of the training which was conducted virtually.
“The TIDOs interact with the traders and other stakeholders at the borders, and it is essential that they display good behaviour, probity and courtesy in their interaction with both traders and border officials as well as researchers that frequent the borders gathering primary data.”
He added that that capacity building was also important for the TIDOs to keep abreast with policy and administrative changes that affect small scale traders to provide value added information.
The training was conducted by customs and immigration officers from Kasumbalesa, Chirundu and Nakonde borders.