• Digital trail

    Digital trail

    The COMESA Electronic Certificate of Origin (eCO) system is ready to be rolled out for testing across 15 nations in East and Southern Africa.

    As the movement of goods across borders has become more challenging due to the restrictive measures and regulations imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the COMESA Secretariat has stepped up plans to introduce the system, which aims to replace manual certificates of origin and simplify the paper trail. The eCO is one of the tools developed under the COMESA Digital Free Trade initiative, and will be issued to exporters within the free trade area ‘to confer preferential treatment’ to goods originating from member states.

    According to a public statement, the Secretariat is in talks with member states to develop national piloting plans. Interested countries include Burundi, DRC, Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

    Christopher Onyango, COMESA director of trade and customs, says the pandemic calls for a ‘speedy implementation of the COMESA eCO by all member states’, adding that the tool can enhance customs co-operation and trade facilitation, thus attracting more regional investment.

    The eCO was devised in 2014 to facilitate intra-regional trade through the reduction of costs and time associated with the registration, application and certificate submission process as well as the post-verification of originating goods. Its introduction was hampered by a delay in the adoption of appropriate regulations. However, draft regulations were agreed in November last year, and the Secretariat decided in June to work with member states on piloting the system, to ensure it is adopted sooner rather than later.

    23 June 2020
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