Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers have adopted regional guidelines for the harmonisation and facilitation of movement of critical goods and services across SADC during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidelines are aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 through transport across borders; facilitating the implementation of transport related national COVID-19 measures in cross-border transportation; facilitating flow of essential goods such as fuel, food and medicines; limiting unnecessary and mass movement of passengers across borders; and harmonising and coordinating transport-related national COVID-19 policies, regulations and response measures.
The guidelines further call for the simplification and automation of trade and transport facilitation processes and documents, information sharing and provide guidance on the services to be provided by governments, transport operators and transport operators associations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers, Prof. Palamagamba John Kabudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation of Tanzania, hailed the adoption of the guidelines as an "important milestone" in coordinating regional response that addresses the health and socio-economic aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prof. Kabudi called on Member States to strengthen their solidarity to contain the spread of the virus while maintaining movement of essential goods and services across regional borders. Section 3.4 (xv) of the Guidelines requires Member States to establish or assign National Transport and Trade Facilitation Committee (NTTFC) or structures with similar mandates. The responsibility of the NTTTFC is to coordinate the implementation of these guidelines and, in particular, to facilitate the resolution of operational issues at borders or roadblocks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SADC Secretariat has also with immediate effect, operationalised a Regional COVID-19 Trade and Transport Facilitation Cell (RTTFC).
This will assist Member States with the coordination of cooperation in implementing trade and transport related measures during COVID-19 pandemic. The Council of Ministers also called on Member States to establish national Emergency Operations Centres to facilitate coordination of logistics and stockpiling for disasters at the national level; and to establish National Emergency Trust Funds and National Resource Mobilisation Strategies to facilitate mobilisation of financial resources for national disaster responses, including for responding to COVID-19.