Business Edge | COMESA Pushes For Free Movement Protocols

To close the week, Business Edge takes a look at the call from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa to free movement protocols among its member states. During the week, COMESA had once again pushed for the implantation of the said protocol, which only four of the twenty-one member countries had adopted before now. The trading bloc was created to foster better trade relations among the group of countries, however, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing at all. Between 1997 and 2007, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Namibia and Angola all withdrew from their membership in COMESA. It then brings up the question of the necessity of COMESA as a bloc, the need for free movement as well as the continued trade relationships in both regions. To discuss with Tolulope Adeleru-Balogun is Dr XN Iraki, economist and associate professor at the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

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A trade agreement is not limited to the passage of goods alone; it also includes the movement of people from one country to another, Dr Iraki says while explaining why only four of the twenty-one COMESA countries have the free movement protocol in place since 2001. “One of the reasons [the agreement] hasn’t worked well is the political will. The countries signed into COMESA but there wasn’t enough political will to implement it.” More damningly, there wasn’t enough investment into infrastructure such as roads, which will make movement easy.

That said, the benefits of having such an agreement in place are enormous. The four countries that have adopted it – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Zimbabwe – have benefited from the free movement of goods and services. Having it in place helps to learn how to compete with imports from neighbouring countries and ultimately become a favourable destination for business.

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Watch the full Business Edge conversation with Dr Iraki above.

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