Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya and Head of EU Delegation to Zambia and COMESA H.E Alessandro Mariani penned the agreement at the Mwami Border post between Zambia and Malawi.
The programme is financed under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) to increase formal small-scale cross-border trade flows in the COMESA/tripartite region. It will support governance reforms, institutional capacity building, improved border infrastructures and better data collection and monitoring.
Ultimately, it will result in higher revenue collection for governments at the borders and higher incomes for small-scale cross-border traders.
The signing of the Agreement heralds the beginning of implementation of the planned activities at the targeted border areas in the COMESA region.
The beneficiaries are primarily small-scale traders, in particular women traders, that regularly cross the borders in the COMESA/tripartite region to sell and buy goods, as well as the associations who represent them and defend their interests.
“COMESA recognises the importance of small scale cross border trade, and ICBT. While providing short/medium-term solutions for poor households, ICBT is not an ideal situation, neither for traders nor for governments,” Ngwenya said.
The programme will address the extent of corruption, bribery and harassment experienced by small-scale traders. It will also ensure that Cross-Border Traders Associations (CBTAs) (and similar business associations) in targeted countries have their capacities reinforced in a sustainable way to effectively defend the interests of their members and deliver appropriate support services.
Under the programme, gender disaggregated statistical data and analysis on small-scale cross-border trade shall be systematically collected, compiled, harmonized and disseminated.
The aim is to increase evidence-based knowledge on the topic and inform better trade policy-making processes at national and regional level as well as ensuring that adequate and gender sensitive basic border infrastructures for small-scale traders are built/upgraded at selected border areas.