THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers has approved the revised guidelines on harmonisation and facilitatiof cross- border transport operations across the region during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
This move is part of efforts by the bloc to smoothen movement of essential goods and support lives in landlocked countries in the region.
Speaking shortly after the meeting that was conveyed via video conferencing mode, the chairman of the meeting, who is Tanzania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and East Africa Kabudi, said the guidelines are set to end challenges that have emerged.
The revised guidelines have been formed by the lessons learnt from the implementation of the original guidelines, which were approved by Council on April 6th this year, to facilitate harmonisation in the movement of essential goods and services across borders during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Prof Kabudi, among other objectives, the approved guidelines are aimed at balancing, realigning, harmonizing and coordinating Covid-19 response measures with the requirements for trade and transport facilitation.
“It is also aimed at promoting safe trade and transport facilitation for economic growth and poverty alleviation in the SADC region, as well as facilitating the adoption and implementation of harmonised standard operating procedures,” he said.
Prof Kabudi also reiterated the call for a coordinated regional response in the fight against Covid- 19 and called on the SADC region to continue exhibiting determination and solidarity while addressing the pandemic.
“During the outbreak and the peak of Covid-19, where most countries limited the movement of people, truck drivers from countries with ports played a great role in supplying essential goods including medicines,” he explained, adding: “They have to be honoured instead of being labeled as distributors of the virus in the region.”
In another development, Prof Kabudi said despite challenges stemming from the outbreak of Covid-19, SADC managed to hold all the meetings via video conferencing, and that no agenda items were skipped.
“They were held successfully, thanks to the devotion by our Information Communications Technology (ICT) experts, who proved that Tanzania can do wonders for the interest of the bloc,” he further explained.
In her welcoming remarks, the Executive Secretary of SADC, Dr Stergomena Tax, said 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 lockdowns and resuming normal business and industrial operations.
According to her, 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 citizens of SADC member countries.