The Southern African Development Community (SADC) launched a new electronic Certificate of Origin (e-CoO) on 7 September, which is designed to improve the way business is conducted in the trading bloc by eliminating the challenges associated with processing certificates of origin manually.
The SADC is a Regional Economic Community comprising 16 Member States: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The new e-CoO, said SADC, will simplify customs procedures, enhance e-Commerce, eliminate fraud, improve record management and statistical data, shorten cross-border certificate verification times as well as reducing the cost of doing business.
Speaking at the launch of the SADC e-CoO, Commissioner General of the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) John Biziwick, said the electronic system would allow manufacturers, producers and exporters to electronically register their products for preferential treatment and apply for Certificates of Origin for an export shipment. This would enable the seamless flow of intra-trade across the SADC Region.
SADC Director of Finance, Investment and Customs Sadwick Mtonakutha said the e-CoO was a notable achievement for SADC and urged the public and private sectors in the SADC Region to push for implementation of the e-CoO in member states.
He noted that, with the introduction of the e-CoO, Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) would benefit from reduced transaction costs, access to better financing terms, improved cashflow, and increased efficiency of business operations. Logistics’ operators would enjoy improved operational efficiencies and real-time connection, while customs administrations would benefit from automated risk management, better fiscal evaluation and speedier goods clearance.
The e-CoO is one of the milestones of the Trade Facilitation Programme (TFP), which is supported by the European Union and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) under the ‘Cooperation for the Enhancement of SADC Regional Economic Integration’ (CESARE) Programme.
The CESARE Programme provides for capacity-building and technical assistance in border cooperation by ensuring the implementation of SADC Coordinated Border Management Guidelines and the provisions of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, particularly on improving the efficiency of their operations.
SADC said the e-CoO would go a long way in supporting implementation of SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063) and was in line with the Regional Integration Agenda as outlined in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP 2020-2030), as well as the consolidation of the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA).
Deputy Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Botswana Jose Angel Becerra Marta pledged EU’s commitment to continue working with SADC to effectively implement the e-CoO and to build on the strong partnership in boosting sustainable economic growth and trade on the African continent.
He said the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement provided an opportunity for countries to think beyond the traditional approach to products originated nationally, towards products “originated in Africa”.