New SMS Tool To Report Non-Tariff Trade Barriers At African Borders

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Small traders and businesses facing barriers to moving goods across African borders now can send a mobile phone text message alert that could help resolve the problems more quickly.

The SMS tool was launched on 9 April in the Zambian capital of Lusaka by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), according to a report in TradeMark Southern Africa newsletter.

The tool is “particularly useful to smaller traders who may not have access to the established web-based reporting system when they encounter a problem at a border post,” the report said. “Now, they can simply send a sms, in any language, to a central administrator, who will then log it on the reporting system and forward it to one of the region’s focal points; people working in the private and public sector who are specifically tasked with addressing NTBs [non-tariff barriers]. This person can then contact the trader or the company for additional information and help resolve their problem.”

The SMS tool was funded by UKaid through the Trademark Southern Africa programme, and is part of an existing online system to log, monitor and eliminate non-tariff barriers.

According to the report, NTBs can include any regulations, policies, conditions, restrictions or specific requirements that make it difficult to move goods from one country to another, and corrupt, complex or lengthy customs procedures.

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