The forum, Promoting inclusive trade in Africa: Boosting cross border trade through simplified trade regimes, will include Stefano Manservisi, European Commission Director General for International Cooperation and Development, and panelists from Trademark East Africa, the African Organisation for Standardisation, Eastern African Grain Council and Pan African Agribusiness and Agroindustry Consortium.
The STRs currently being implemented around Africa are designed to make life easier for small traders and will remove customs duties and other taxes from small consignments of goods. At this year's European Development Days, development partners will discuss how to help traders benefit from this cross-border change.
Around 10% of African trade is intra-regional, far below the 60% seen in Western Europe, and much less than what is needed to make the most of Africa's billion-person market. Uncoordinated border management practices and poor trade facilitation have long stood between producers and consumers in different countries.
An STR is intended to benefit small cross-border traders, thereby promoting employment, food security and movement of goods within a region. It combines a simplified customs document and certificate of origin with a common list of products and a value threshold, below which goods can move free of cost.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and East African Community (EAC) have both introduced an STR, while the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and most recently the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have also begun the process.
A route for small traders
Unfortunately, the reality on the border is often very challenging. Small cross-border traders, usually women and youths, can face numerous problems while attempting to cross borders. They may experience harassment and bribe demands, be forced to pay excessive charges, have their goods impounded, or have difficulties obtaining passports or visas.
Small traders, especially women and youths, need to be empowered with information about the applicable STR and other trade provisions. This will encourage formalisation and compliance on the border and help traders increase revenue, and consequently, make cross-border trade truly inclusive.
Stefano Manservisi, Director General, for International Cooperation and Development Director-General European Commission/Devco
Koen Doens, Director East and Southern Africa and ACP coordination, European Commission – DG for International Cooperation and Development
Frank Matsaert, CEO, Trademark East Africa
Hermogene Nsangimana, CEO of the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO)
Janet K. Ngombalu, Regional Programme Coordinator, Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC)
Lucy Muchoki, Chief Executive Officer of the Pan African Agribusiness and Agroindustry Consortium, Kenya
Isolina Boto, Manager Brussels Office, CTA