The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is a regional grouping of 19 African States which have agreed to promote regional integration through trade development and transport facilitation. More information can be obtained from the COMESA websitewww.comesa.int.
COMESA is the largest regional free trade area in Africa, and has identified the importance of trade initiatives at regional level to support small-scale trade. In particular, COMESA introduced the Simplified Trade Regime (STR) which is being implemented in seven Member States with the aim of facilitating small-scale trade at selected border posts. Similarly, the COMESA Council, in 2014, adopted the Regulations on Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Small-Scale Cross-Border Traders to promote behavioural change among both traders and officials. The STR and the Regulations for the Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Small Scale Cross-Border Traders largely relate to trade in goods. The gender aspect of the STR is very strong with the majority of the small scale traders being women and youth; while for the Great Lakes Region, reconciliation and peace building aspects are strong.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that informal transactions are widespread in services sectors such as education, health, construction, housekeeping, entertainment and hairdressing. Regulatory barriers such as costly visas, restrictions on residency and work permits, and other immigration hurdles force services providers into informality. As a result, these trade flows remain largely unreported. While services providers remain trapped in informality, governments lose income from taxes and the growth potential of these entrepreneurs are constrained by lack of access to finance.
The World Bank has responded to the need to facilitate trade in the Great Lakes region and has developed a programme involving D R Congo, Rwanda and Uganda as well as the COMESA Secretariat and which will build on other COMESA existing initiatives at selected borders. The development objective of this project is to facilitate cross-border trade by increasing the capacity for commerce and reducing the costs faced by traders, especially small-scale and women traders, at targeted locations in the borderlands.
Specific components of activities that would be implemented by COMESA With regard to the regional component of the project, COMESA will play a key role in ensuring regional coordination and communication regarding implementation of the COMESA STR and the COMESA Regulations, including the extension of the Regulations to trade in services. The COMESA Secretariat will build on on-going efforts by COMESA and her partners at the national and regional levels and support coordinated implementation at the local level through the Trade Information Desks that will be established or reinforced at each of the selected border posts. The Trade Information Desks will provide on-the-spot information to traders on the COMESA Regulations, the STR and Charter on the Rights and Protection of Traders; support the clearance process (e.g. by helping the traders to fill the required forms) as well as collect relevant data and statistics. Indeed the presence of COMESA officials and traders’ representatives, and their familiarity with the behavioural challenges faced by small-scale traders, will provide for an environment where complaints/abuses are more likely to be reported. Extensive communication campaigns will be put in place at the regional level by the COMESA Secretariat to support the dissemination and implementation of the STR.
In addition, the Project, in coordination with relevant stakeholders, will provide a comprehensive response to the needs and concerns of female small scale cross border traders at various levels to enable them conduct their day to day business smoothly. The support will include: matters of health and well-being; provision of gender sensitive infrastructure facilities; creation of conducive legal and policy environments; and capacity building of various service providers on their roles and responsibilities and on different social and economic roles and needs of women and men cross border traders to strengthen their service provision and accountability.
In order to execute the COMESA Secretariat component of the project, COMESA Secretariat is desirous of hiring the services of a Project Coordinator who will be required to coordinate at the regional level aspects of the project such as implementation of the STR, Training on Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Small Scale Cross-Border Traders as well as standardised methods of collecting data on the activities of small scale traders, as detailed in the project documents. On assumption of duty, the successful candidate will be availed all the necessary information to facilitate efficient performance and delivery of the required outputs.