Cross-border traders in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region will have to wait a little longer before they are accorded a chance to trade smoothly as a meeting of ministers under the bloc agreed to keep borders closed.
The virtual meeting took place on Friday where the ministers discussed how to turn the Covid-19 pandemic into an opportunity for emboldening industrialisation and intra-trade in the Region.
Chairperson of the Sadc Council of Ministers, Palamagamba John Kabudi, indicated at the meeting that the Covid-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to boost intra-regional trade, currently at less than 20 percent and ultimately create jobs and boost its economy.
He said, as the region continues to implement the Sadc Industrialisation Strategy and Road Map 2015-2063, there is need to take advantage of increased need of medicines and medical supplies and create conducive environment for the establishment of new pharmaceutical industries and provide various incentives to the existing ones.
“Resolving challenges and fast-tracking cross-border movement of goods and services during the Covid-19 pandemic will open an opportunity to ease movement of goods and people, accelerate intra-regional trade, consolidate the Sadc Free Trade Area and facilitate the implementation of the Sadc Protocol on Trade and drive the Sadcindustrialisation agenda,” Kabudi said.
However, in a separate interview, Sadc Head of Communications and Public Relations, Barbara Lopi, said the bloc is still deliberating on possibility of re-opening of boarders for people and goods.
“Borders are still closed except for movement of essential goods and services related to Covid-19, there are still discussions as to when the borders will be open for other things besides movement of goods and materials related to Covid-19,” Lopi said.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ben Botolo, concurred with Lopi stressing the situation means that Malawi, being a land-locked country, is still assured of supplies of essential goods and services.
“We are still looking at the essential services like fuel, food, fertilisers, and other agri-inputs and other things on trade what we are looking at now are issues like pharmaceuticals which are essential drugs and as a country we are looking at having companies to manufacture some of these preventive equipment and within Sadc we have to enforce intra-trade on such,” Botolo said.
Members of the bloc resorted to close borders as a preventive measure to the spread of the novel coronavirus which negatively impacted cross-border traders from within the region