The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in collaboration with the Department for International Development (DfID)-UK, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will launch the first ever Trade Information Desk (TID) at the Kasumbalesa Border Post in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) side on 27th January 2009. DRC shares the Kasumbalesa border with Zambia.
The information desk will assist cross-border traders in the region with information on the COMESA Simplified Trade Regime (STR), the promotion of intra-COMESA trade, as well as peace in the region through economic integration. It will provide, amoung other things, various materials containing information on the COMESA Certificate of Origin, the Simplified Customs Document, SPS standards and Non tariff Barriers. Additionally, the desk will supply information on transport and transport fares, accommodation around the border areas, maps of main cities around the border in DRC and Zambia, exchange rates and trading centers in the border area.
This launch is in line with COMESA Peace and Security Program that supports countries emerging from conflicts in post conflict reconstruction and development.
As part of this programme, the COMESA Trading for Peace Project working in partnership with the Department for International Development (DFID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been organising different activities involving Government representatives and cross-border traders within DRC since January 2008. It is at Forum held at the Kasumbalesa border post (DRC and Zambia) in February 2008 that a recommendation to set up this Information Desk was made.
Prior to the setting-up of the information desk, three field trips were conducted in Kasumbalesa on the Congolese and the Zambian side. A survey including approximately 50 small-scale traders (with 40% of women) was conducted in 2 Congolese markets, each respectively known as the Bahati Market and Kabulo Market. General information on the need for the trade information desk was gathered.
All those interviewed welcomed the idea of a trade information desk as they admitted to lacking sufficient knowledge in processes such as clearing of goods and obtaining information on market prices. Furthermore, the questionnaire also revealed that:
- 98% were willing to pay a small amount (range 75-300 Congolese Franc = 0,15- 0,55 $US) for useful information such as exchange rate, accommodation contacts, trading centers contacts etc, which would facilitate trading and crossing borders,
- 54% indicated that the impact of good and useful information could be very large,
- 46% believe the impact would be moderate on their daily business.
The need for access to the internet amongst small scale traders was surprisingly not as important as was initially expected. Bearing this in mind, the trade information desk, will cater information to the small scale traders by verbal or manual means (photocopying, printed).
The Launch will be attended by high profile government officials, both from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia, the Committee of Permanent Representatives to COMESA, Secretariat, Customs Officials and private sector federations and COMESA Cross boarder traders representatives.