Companies can now market their products across Africa thanks to an online information portal developed by the Common Markets for Eastern and Africa (Comesa).
The portal seeks to overcome logistics challenges that firms face in their bid to take their products across borders.
The platform, intended to support intra-trade, is aimed at enabling manufacturers and traders to engage directly on a portal authenticated by governments.
Speaking when she virtually launched the prototype platform during a meeting attended by representatives of member states, Secretary-General Chileshe Kapwepwe said this will accommodate the private sector’s zeal to trade across borders without fear of losing their goods.
“Populating the platform with information on essential supplies is expected to boost local production and address shortages in supply from outside the region where member states share information on availability of products manufactured or grown in their individual countries,” she said.
According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, intra-African exports and imports stood at two percent in 2015–2017 period, compared to trade in America, Asia, Europe and Oceania at 47 percent, 61 percent, 67 percent and seven percent respectively.
Kenya 2019 import bill from other African countries rose to Sh234 billion, an 11 percent rise from the Sh210 billion spent in 2018. Export receipts rose by a paltry three percent to Sh224 billion in the year exposing the need for Kenya’s trade chiefs and private sector players to conduct marketing missions to African countries.
The Comesa secretariat said a training programme would soon be rolled out to enhance the platform’s use.
Ms Kapwepwe said small-scale cross-border traders and SMEs will benefit from new linkages on products, sellers and buyers thereby enhancing trade activities without the need for physical contact.
She noted that the digital trade facilitation programme and the liberalisation of services remain core to strengthening the stability of the Comesa against external shocks.
Established in 1994, Comesa brings together 21 African Member States creating a market of 560 million people.
“Over the mid-to long-term, disruption in supply chains could lead to filling of the gap by regional producers and hence the need to strengthen and fully implement the Free Trade Area,” Ms Kapwepwe said.
“The successful implementation of the online platform will no doubt be an important step towards realisation of Comesa digital free trade area initiatives.”
To combat Covid-19 adverse effects on trade, Comesa has urged member states to strengthen openness, co-ordination mechanisms and collective approach in facilitating movement of goods and services.