Digital inclusiveness to steer robust cross-border trading

THERE is an urgent need to embrace digital inclusiveness and enterprise competitiveness in regional cross-border trade to address the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cross-border trading is a key economic activity sustaining thousands of families within Sadc and broader Comesa region.

Regional economic experts have said that the prevailing disruption in global supply chains has underlined the importance of regional markets, and the need to address constraints and building robust economies that can fully compete and take advantage of regional markets.

Speaking during the Comesa Business Council (CBC) 9th Annual General Meeting and the inaugural Industry Technical Committee meeting held recently, the council’s chairman Mr Marday Venkatasamy said: “The strategy of building regional and going global has never been more important than it is now.”

The virtual meeting was attended by national and regional sectoral associations of 15 out of the 21 Comesa countries and corporate companies.

Cognisant of the serious disruptions in trade and value chains caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in grave losses to economic output and business sustainability in the region, the CBC has been active in influencing policy-making processes and high-level engagement to address some of the key impediments in regional and global trade.

Key advocacy programmes for the second-half of the year, include the CBC’s business trader observer: an annual survey of business impediments along trade and transport corridors in the Comesa region.

The other is the CBC digital financial inclusion (DFI) project whose objective is to develop a digital integrated regional common payment scheme that can address issues of affordability, accessibility, convertibility and interoperability for Small and Medium Enterprises and industry response to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the private sector’s competitiveness.

Chairperson of the Industry Technical Committee Dr Sherif Al Gabaly who is also the African Co-operation Committee and Federation of Egyptian Industries chairman was quoted as saying: “The expected outcome of the proposed digital common payment policy for SMEs would be an increase in financial inclusion of SMEs and a subsequent increase in the volumes of digital cross-border transactions within the segment.”

He called for collaborative public-private sector efforts in the identification and resolution of business impediments when conducting cross-border trade to inform public-private dialogue and advocacy efforts towards addressing the issue.

During the meeting it was also stressed that there was need for increased efforts towards curbing illicit trade, prioritising key business and trade facilitation impediments for advocacy, and setting up strong and more strategic engagement platforms with ministers, parliamentarians and regulators to address these issues.

Comesa assistant secretary general Ambassador Kipyego Cheluget also highlighted the need for consistent involvement and advocacy of the private sector in policy making processes and public-private dialogue to address some of the notable challenges in regional trade.

The meeting underlined the importance of increasingly adopting digital technologies for both manufacturing and services sector, in view of fast-tracking the development of industries and economies in the

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