Member states of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMES) have established a digital Free Trade Area (FTA) to enhance cross border trade using ICT in an attempt to minimize physical barriers.

The meeting which is currently taking place in Lilongwe was scheduled for three days is expected to end to today.

COMESA Director of Trade Customs and Monetary Affairs, Francis Mangeni has said that traders will be able to export products within the region and globally with ease.

He further added that with the new development traders will increase COMESA exports.

Mangeni said this on Monday in Lilongwe during the COMESA Digital FTA workshop.

In his remarks Mangeni said that the initiative has potential to double the growth rate of the small and medium enterprises in the region.

“It is estimated that when we digitize trade facilitation instruments, we shall get $17.2 billion in new trade. Trade is going to increase annually by $17.2 billion.

He added; “For this reason, it is very important program which needs to be implemented and which has to take off as soon as possible.”

Director of administration and finance in the ministry of trade, Dr. Joseph Mkandawire, said that the new innovation is a gateway to economic development for both Malawi and the region as a whole.

“Digitization will help the region to reduce the cost of doing business and facilitate more flow of goods and services. It will help reduce unemployment, increase consumer choices including consumer convenience” he said.

COMESA, with its 19 member states, population of over 480 million and annual import bill of around 32 billion dollars, with export bill of about 82 billion dollars, is one of the major Free Trade Zones for both intra-imports and intra-exports.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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