Aug 17, 2018: The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) region would gain US$17.5 billion in intra-Comesa exports per annum if all member states were to adopt and implement its digital free trade area (DFTA), according to a research paper presented to the 5th Comesa Annual Research Forum in Nairobi by principal economist for Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Enterprise Development, Adam Willie.

The study found that five countries (Eritrea, Egypt, Sudan, Libya and Ethiopia) in the region held the largest intra-Comesa export trade potential while four countries (Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius and Rwanda) had already exhausted their potential to generate additional intra-Comesa exports.

Meanwhile, countries such as Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe presented significant potential to increase intra-Comesa trade by implementing the DFTA.

The study was based on Comesa member states’ low baseline implementation of six digital trade facilitation measures which enable efficient coordination and exchange of data and documents among government border agencies and business communities.

It also recommended policy change by countries with low to medium baseline implementation scores in order to scale up implementation of e-trade and noted that “one size fit all” policies would not work due to high variability in baseline implementation levels across countries.

“Efforts should be made to understand country specific circumstance on why they have not been able to scale up implementation,” added Willie.

July saw Comesa commission the setting up of a team to oversee the implementation of the DFTA within the bloc. The DFTA will be an online platform for trade facilitation through three separate segments; electronic trade, logistics and legislation.

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