Why it will take longer for Comesa Customs Union to work

Published on 24/06/2009

By Benson Kathuri

Local manufacturers will have to wait three years before they can enjoy the benefits of the recently agreed Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) trade agreement.

Though leaders from the 19-member country bloc launched a Customs Union (CU) that would allow free movement of goods and services across the region a fortnight ago, it will take three years to be fully implemented.

“The countries are being given three years which can be extended to five years to align their national tariffs with the Comesa external tariff,” said Stephen Karangizi, Comesa assistant secretary general in charge of programmes.

Speaking to the press after attending a trade workshop for representatives from the member states, Karangizi however, said CU is operational and a management team picked at the Lusaka-based secretariat to run the operations.

He said Heads of States who met in Zimbabwe endorsed the CU that means that all finished imported goods to the region will attract 25 per cent duty.

However, the members were not expected to sign any deal to join the CU because it was included in the Comesa Treaty of 1994 that proposed that it be launched after ten years.

The members, however, failed to have it started in 2004. It was expected to be launched in May last year but was delayed after the Heads of States summit failed to take place in Harare.

He said the players and mainly from the private sector have not agreed on all goods to be charged the lower rates.

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