By Nation Reporter
DEMOCRATIC Republic of CongAdd Mediao has passed a law to join the COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA), bringing the number of member states participating in the regional economic community to 16.
The COMESA FTA was launched in October 2000 to provide duty free and quota free market access to member states on COMESA originating products.
The 16 participating countries are Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, DRC, Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The 16 countries now enjoyed the FTA integration and in particular the free movement of people, and exchange of goods and services that was accompanied by infrastructural development such as roads, highways, ports, airports and rail.
According to the latest COMESA agriculture statistics bulletin, the joining of the DRC has economic benefits for member states as it had a very large economy with rich mineral resources, market and population size that would now be included in the larger COMESA market.
The accession to the FTA will be done through a three-year phase down approach starting in 2016 with a 40 percent reduction on duty followed by a 30 percent reduction in 2017 and another 30 percent in 2018.
This will eventually bring the charges to zero percent which is a requirement for a country to fully participate in the FTA.
The regional grouping has established a set or criteria known as the rules of origin to ensure that goods that have undergone some processing or are wholly produced within the region get preferential tariff treatment when crossing the border.
It was also agreed that the African Union and other entities involved in peace support operations and humanitarian assistance should have experienced personnel in their structures with the right equipment and training.
This will enable them to overcome existing logistical obstacles in garrison, operational or tactical environments in the region.
The bulletin reported that the total quantity of cereal exported and imported in the region was 5.5 million tonnes in 2014 compared to 3.7 million tonnes in 2013.
Out of this amount, 3.3 million tonnes of cereals was imported from outside the region.
Sudan accounted for 1.2 million or 35 percent of all cereal imports into COMESA followed by Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
Wheat constituted 84 percent of all the cereal imports.
The COMESA region harvested a total of 115 million tonnes of cereals in 2013, up from 70 million tonnes in 2012.
Maize contributed 36 percent of the total cereal production followed by sorghum at 18 percent and wheat 17 percent.