SADC approves new cross-border transport guidelines

By Business Reporter

THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) extraordinary Council of ministers meeting held virtually last week approved the revised regional guidelines on harmonisation and facilitation of cross border transport operations across the region and standard operating procedures for the management and monitoring of cross border road transport at designated points of entry and Covid-19 checkpoints.

The revision of the regional guidelines has been informed by the lessons learnt from the implementation of the original guidelines which were approved by the council on April 6 2020, to facilitate harmonisation in the movement of essential goods and services across borders during the pandemic.

The approved guidelines aim to balance, realign, harmonise and coordinate Covid-19 response measures; to promote safe trade and transport facilitation for economic growth and poverty alleviation in the SADC region; and to facilitate the adoption and implementation of harmonised standard operating procedures for management and monitoring of cross border road transport at designated points of entry and Covid-19 checkpoints.

The revised guidelines will also facilitate the implementation of a smart corridor trip monitoring system for management of the registration of cross border trips through recording, monitoring and surveillance of driver wellness; tracking of vehicles loads and drivers; contact tracing; queue management; as well as statistical analysis and reporting.

Palamagamba John Kabudi, Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African cooperation and chairperson of the SADC council of ministers reiterated the need for coordinated regional response in the fight against Covid-19 and called on the region to continue exhibiting determination and solidarity while addressing the problem.

He said it was important to put up stringent measures to contain the pandemic, and work as a coordinated unit in nurturing the aim of integration amongst member states, which is to boost intra-regional trade.

SADC executive secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax highlighted that Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the region, which was now operating under challenging times in which member states were negatively impacted and brought under severe stress, requiring extraordinary measures.

Tax added that unhindered facilitation of movement of people and industrial goods across borders was a necessary step now that member states were beginning to come out of lockdown to resume normal business and industrial operations.

“All indications show that until a vaccine or treatment for Covid-19 is found, which might take a while, the region has to remain pragmatic and vigilant by considering both, health requirements, but also socio-economic imperatives,” she said adding that the region needed to move on and continue facilitating safe trade, while promoting economic growth, poverty alleviation, and protecting the wellbeing and livelihoods of the SADC citizens.

Council also urged member states who have not yet established and or activated National Transport and Trade Facilitation Committees (NTTFCs) with expanded membership to include public health, public security and private sector, in order to address Covid-19 remedial measures, to do so. Further, member states were urged to collaborate with the secretariat in a survey to identify capacity building needs of NTTFCs and the design of a programme to strengthen them.

Council also directed the Expanded Technical Committee to develop guidelines aimed at encouraging the development of local and regional pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities that are safe and uphold highest standards of integrity.