The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has taken an important step towards enhancing seamless flow of intra-regional trade following the launch of the electronic Certificate of Origin (e-CoO) in Blantyre, Malawi, on 7th September 2022 under the theme ‘Enhancing trade facilitation through the SADC Electronic Certificate of Origin’.

The recently launched e-CoO is intended to address the challenges encountered with the use of manual Certificate of Origin by simplifying customs procedures, enhancing e-Commerce, eliminating fraud, improving record management and statistical data, reducing cross-border certificate verification time as well as reducing the cost of doing business.

Speaking at the launch of the SADC e-Certificate of Origin, Commissioner General of the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), Mr. John Biziwick, said the e-Certificate of Origin will improve the way business is conducted in the Region because the challenges that were associated with the manual processing of the certificate will be eliminated.

He said the electronic system will allow manufacturers, producers and exporters to electronically register their products for preferential treatment and apply for Certificates of Origin whenever there is an export shipment, adding that the introduction of the SADC e-Certificate of Origin will increase the seamless flow of intra-trade across the SADC Region by eliminating impediments caused by the manual process.

Director of Finance, Investment and Customs at the SADC Secretariat, Mr. Sadwick Mtonakutha, said implementation of the e-CoO is a notable milestone for SADC to keep pace with the rapid shift to e-Commerce, the drive to foster industrialisation and improve efficiency in serving the business community.

Mr Mtonakutha highlighted that it was in the best interest of the public and private sectors in the SADC Region to push for ownership and implementation of the e- Certificate of Origin in Member States owing to the many benefits that it presents to assist in facilitating tradeHe noted that, with the introduction of the e- Certificate of Origin, Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) will benefit from reduced transaction costs, access to better financing terms, improved cashflow, and increased efficiency of business operations.

For the logistics operators, Mr Mtonakutha said the operators will have improved operational efficiencies and real-time connection, while customs administrations will benefit from automated risk management, better fiscal evaluation and speedier goods clearance.Mr. Becerra Marta Jose Angel, the Deputy Head of Cooperation at the European Union (EU) Delegation to Botswana, said the launch of the e-CoO represented a new step of the EU longstanding partnership with Africa on economic integration and trade matters. He pledged EU’s commitment to continue working with SADC to effectively implement the e-CoO and to build on the strong partnership in boosting sustainable economic growth and trade on the African continent.He said the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement provides an opportunity for countries to think beyond the traditional approach to products originated nationally, towards products “originated in Africa”.

Representative of the German Development Cooperation and Technical Advisor for GIZ Botswana and SADC, Mr Healey Mweemba, described the launch of SADC e-CoO as an important milestone on the road towards implementation of the SADC Trade Facilitation Programme and added that his organisation was committed to supporting trade facilitation because of the immense benefits that can be collectively achieved once fully and effectively implementedMr Mweemba said a lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic is that countries should leverage on technology to modernise the way they trade.The e-Certificate of Origin is one of the milestones of the Trade Facilitation Programme (TFP), which is supported by the European Union and GIZ under the “Cooperation for the Enhancement of SADC Regional Economic Integration” (CESARE) Programme that provides for capacity-building and technical assistance in border cooperation by ensuring the implementation of SADC Coordinated Border Management Guidelines and the provisions of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, particularly on improving the efficiency of their operations.The SADC e-Certificate of Origin will go a long way in supporting the implementation of SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063) and is in line with the Regional Integration Agenda as outlined in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP 2020-2030) as well as the consolidation of the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA).