The Southern African Development Community (SADC) extra-ordinary Council of Ministers Meeting held virtually on 23rd June 2020 has approved the Revised Regional Guidelines on Harmonization and Facilitation of Cross Border Transport Operations across the Region, and Regional Standard Operating Procedures for the Management and Monitoring of Cross Border Road Transport at Designated Points of Entry and Covid-19 Checkpoints.
The revision of the Regional Guidelines has been informed by the lessons learnt from the implementation of the original Guidelines which were approved by Council on 6th April 2020, to facilitate harmonisation in the movement of essential goods and services across borders during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The approved guidelines aim to first and foremost, balance, realign, harmonise and coordinate COVID-19 response measures with the requirements for trade and transport facilitation; secondly, to promote safe trade and transport facilitation for economic growth and poverty alleviation in the SADC region; and thirdly, to facilitate the adoption and implementation of harmonised standard operating procedures for management and monitoring of cross border road transport at designated points of entry and COVID-19 checkpoints.
The revised guidelines, will also facilitate the implementation of SMART corridor trip monitoring system for management of the registration of cross border trips through, recording, monitoring and surveillance of driver wellness; tracking of vehicles loads and drivers; contact tracing; queue management; as well as statistical analysis and reporting.
In his opening remarks to the virtual meeting Hon. Prof. Palamagamba John Kabudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, and Chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers, reiterated the call for coordinated regional response in the fight against COVID-19 and called on the SADC region to continue exhibiting determination and solidarity while addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it was important to put up stringent measures to contain the pandemic, and work as a coordinated unit in nurturing the very aim of integration amongst Member States, which is to boost intra-regional trade.
In her welcome remarks, the Executive Secretary of SADC, H.E. Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax highlighted that the COVID-19 Pandemic has had devastating impact on the region, which was now operating under very difficult and challenging times in which the social-economic fabrics of Member States and the Region were negatively impacted and brought under severe stress, requiring extra-ordinary measures.
Dr Tax added that unhindered facilitation of movement of people and industrial goods across borders was a necessary step now that Member States were beginning to come out of the lockdowns to resume normal business and industrial operations. “All indications show that until a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is found, which might take a while, the region has to remain pragmatic and vigilant by considering both, health requirements, but also socio-economic imperatives” Dr Tax, said, and added that the region needed to move on and continue facilitating safe trade, while promoting economic growth, poverty alleviation, and protecting the wellbeing and livelihoods of the SADC citizens.
Council also urged Member States who have not yet established and or activated National Transport and Trade Facilitation Committees (NTTFCs) with expanded membership to include public health, public security and private sector, in order to address COVID-19 remedial measures, to do so. Further, Member States were urged to collaborate with Secretariat in a survey to identify capacity building needs of NTTFCs and the design of a program to strengthen them.
Council also directed the Expanded Technical Committee to develop guidelines aimed at encouraging the development of local and regional pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities that are safe and uphold highest standards of integrity.
Council noted the initiative by the Chairperson of the African Union, supported by the African Union Special Envoy of sourcing COVID-19 medical supplies and equipment from the ‘Africa Medical Supplies Online Platform’, as a single marketplace, and encouraged Member States to use the Platform.
Council extended appreciation to the Government of India for her readiness to support SADC region in fight against COVID-19