Fifteen Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member states are ready to start piloting the COMESA Electronic Certificate of Origin (eCO) System. The eCO is one of the latest tools developed under the COMESA Digital Free Trade Area (DFTA) initiative.
Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have indicated their readiness to pilot the COMESA eCO system.
The need to start implementing the eCo system has gained urgency given the challenges that movement of goods across borders is facing as a result of restrictive measures put in place in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The eCO will replace the manual certificates and help to circumvent the onerous manual process.
Certificates of Origin are issued to exporters within the COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA) to confer preferential treatment to goods originating from an FTA member State. The uptake of the electronic certificate has not gained traction among Member States in the past for lack of the necessary regulations under the COMESA Rules of Origin (RoO).
The decision to adopt the eCo was made by the Council of Ministers in 2014 to replace the manual certificate. The objective was to facilitate intra-regional trade through reduction in the costs and time required in registration, application and submission of certificates and the post-verification of originating goods. In November last year, the 40th Meeting of the Council of Ministers adopted the draft regulations to implement the COMESA eCO system.
Subsequently, a Technical Working Group (TWG) on Rules of Origin was tasked to review the Rules to facilitate implementation of the COMESA eCO and other trade facilitation instruments.
During the 14th meeting of the TWG, COMESA Secretariat undertook to collaborate with Member States that are ready to pilot the system to develop national piloting plans to ensure that electronic certificates are implemented sooner rather than later.