DRC, Burundi set to roll out simplified trade regime

Countries implementing the simplified trade regime set to rise common market for Eastern and Southern Africa [Image: courtesy]
Africa—Small cross-border trade between Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is set to flourish after the two countries began the process towards implementation of the COMESA Simplified Trade Regime (STR).

This is slated to be done under the soon-to-be-launched Great Lake Trade Facilitation Project, (GLTFIP) which covers the two states and COMESA Secretariat.

The project is aimed at facilitating trade and increasing the competitiveness of certain value chains for traders, especially small-scale traders, in targeted locations in the broader areas Lakes Region, focusing on Burundi and Congo.

Among the planned activities include improving connectivity to markets across the borders through policy and procedural reforms, commercial infrastructure improvements, and capacity building for both border agencies and traders.

Under the GLTFIP, COMESA Secretariat will implement specific activities related to trade facilitation, policy harmonization, and collaboration between Burundi and DR Congo and use its convening power to support the part6cupaiting countries to fully implement the STR.

As part of preparations for the STR rollout, COMESA Secretariat through the current Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project (GLTFP), convened a bilateral meeting between the two states in Bujumbura, Burundi. The GLTFP is the forerunner to the GLTFIP and is lapsing at the end of this year paving way for the launch and implementation of the latter.

At the meeting, experts are drawn from ministries of trade, trade facilitation institutions, customs and standards, and sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS) agencies, private sector, and project implantation units discussed and made recommendations to policymakers that will allow the smooth implementation of the STR.

The STR was developed to assist small-scale cross-border traders to access the privileges of the COMESA free trade area including import duty exemptions while reducing the time spent at borders. The aim is to transform and mainstream small-scale cross-border trade into formal cross-border trade.

The meeting identified key issues for promoting trade between the two counties and came up with recommendations and common positions on possible solutions. A memorandum of understanding will be developed considerably by policymakers.

The delegates also conducted a familiarisation vision to the great lakes project borders to see the trading activities and the general enjoyment.