Malawi has become the latest country to embrace the Comesa Virtual Trade Facilitation System (Cvtfs) which aims to cut down non-tariff barriers, reduce the cost of doing business and improve intra-regional trade, among others.
The system also aims to integrate systems used by regional revenue authorities, transporters, shippers, clearing agents, ports and customs to provide real time information and facilitate uninterrupted movement of goods across borders, according to a statement from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) secretariat in Zambia seen by Business Review.
Malawi largely depends on her neighbours for accessing ports and international markets.
Transport alone, according to available figures, accounts for up to 60 percent of the landed cost of the product.
Delays arising from lengthy procedures at weight control points and police road blocks within the region have been identified as major non-tariff barriers hindering free-flow trade.
Comesa public relations officer Mwangi Gakunga said the online trade facilitation tool that is being used by players in the transport chain within the trade bloc will effectively manage transit goods and consequently reduce the cost of doing business.
He said the rollout of the Comesa Cvtfs in Malawi was conducted from July 21 to 26 2014 by a technical team from Comesa which set up the system’s control centre at the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA).
“Cvtfs provides full visibility, in real time, of all tagged consignments from source to destination. It provides an effective solution for cargo tracking management and the system is accessible to customs authorities, freight forwarders, insurance companies, banks, port authorities, container freight stations and traders to mention but a few,” said Gakunga.
He said a draft memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the implementation of the online trade system in Malawi and an operation manual were submitted to MRA and was expected to review and submit to Comesa secretariat by August 10 2014 in preparation for commercialization of the system.
Gakunga said discussions regarding the commercialisation of Cvtfs and preparation for its usage on fuel tankers, open bulk cargo and vehicle locks were initiated in preparation of the system’s roll out.
“Prior to the rollout, a selection of border points and transit routes was done in addition to training of assigned MRA experts on the system. Testing of export of high valued cargo such as tea and imports have been successfully carried out for three key routes: Mwanza to Blantyre, Blantyre to Muloza and Dedza to Lilongwe,” he said.
With these innovations, MRA is now in the process of setting up inspection zones where the arming, inspection and disarming by assigned officers will be carried out.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia and Djibouti have resumed activities towards the implementation of the Cvtfs along their main transit corridor, following a joint meeting between representatives of the two States to iron out the challenges that have led to delays in rolling out the system.
Cvtfs has been successfully implemented in the northern corridor comprising Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).