Covid-19: Africa’s Customs chiefs to adopt new continental trade guidelines

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Following the devastating effects of the COVID-19, Africa’s customs heads have given support to the adoption of continental guidelines to facilitate free and timely flow of cross-border trade amid the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of the start of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on 1 January 2021.

The customs chiefs made the pledge at a virtual meeting of Directors General of Customs on the continent organized by the African Union Commission (AUC) where they affirmed that the solutions must be maintained and upgraded following the crisis.

The meeting observed that by magnifying Africa’s cross-border inefficiencies, the coronavirus pandemic presented an opportunity to reinvigorate efforts at overcoming long-standing trade facilitation challenges.

Presenting the guidelines, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Director of Regional Integration and Trade, Mr. Stephen Karingi said they were designed to support cross-REC harmonization of Covid-19 guidelines and advance coordination and implementation of common guidelines. 

The guidelines cover a number of new subsections to respond to specific gaps in existing rules, including the regulation of small-scale cross-border trade and cross-border trade by fishermen, gender considerations, and treatment of essential workers, including transport and humanitarian workers.

In his own remarks, AUC’s Acting Director for Trade and Industry Mr. Hussein Hassan said the Commission partnered with the ECA and the African Union Development Agency – New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD) to develop the continental guidelines on trade and transport facilitation for the movement of persons, goods and services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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