A Step Forward in Trade Efficiency for COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area

18 October 2023

In a significant step towards enhancing trade efficiency and promoting economic growth in the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), the World Customs Organization (WCO), has successfully assisted the Secretariat  of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to update the Rules of Origin (RoO) from the HS 2017 to the HS 2022. This critical development was achieved in a workshop held in Lusaka, Zambia, from October 9 to 11, 2023.

This workshop, organized under the EU-WCO Rules of Origin Africa Programme, funded by the European Union, marked a crucial milestone in streamlining trade operations in the TFTA region. The main objective was to assist the COMESA Secretariat and the TFTA Member/Partner States in aligning the RoO with the HS 2022 edition to reduce the risk of misclassifying goods. The draft updated TFTA RoO for HS 2022 shall be submitted to the TFTA Technical Working Group on Rules of Origin for validation.

Framing the technical assistance under the perspective of sustainability, the RoO Africa Programme invited experts from the COMESA members states to contribute to the alignment exercise and build their competency, so as to be equipped to conduct the same exercise for the next HS editions.

Prior to the commencement of the workshop, Ambassador Dr. Mohamed Kadah, Assistant Secretary-General (Programmes) at COMESA Secretariat, held a courtesy meeting with representatives from the EU Delegation to the Republic of Zambia and COMESA; and WCO Experts. During this meeting, Ambassador Kadah emphasized the importance of efficiently implementing rules of origin in the region.

Dr. Christopher Onyango, Director of Trade and Customs at the COMESA Secretariat and Mr. Ernest Sigande, Commissioner of Customs at the Zambia Revenue Authority, officially opened the workshop emphasizing the significance of this alignment exercise and its paramount role in trade facilitation. Dr. Onyango also expressed gratitude to the World Customs Organization and the European Union for their continued support and partnership.

In her remarks, Ms. Christiane Haziyo, Programme Manager at the EU Delegation in Zambia, reiterated the significance of the HS updating exercise for the TFTA RoO and emphasized the EU's commitment to its partnership with the WCO under the EU-WCO Rules of Origin Africa Programme. She commended COMESA for its achievements thus far, supported by EU funding, and assured continued support for the region's development.

During the workshop, participants reviewed the TFTA rule documents, identifying chapters affected by HS amendments. They provided comprehensive comments that will be considered by the Tripartite Member/Partner States' Experts during the validation of the technical updated draft. The participants proposed a matrix-format list of rules containing the updated TFTA list RoO for Tripartite Member/Partner States' consideration.

In conclusion, the COMESA Secretariat expressed gratitude to the World Customs Organization for its unwavering technical support and to the European Union for its steadfast commitment to advancing the COMESA region through various programmes.

For further information or inquiries, please contact EU-WCORoOAfrica.Program@wcoomd.org