Africa’s first digital free trade area for rollout in 2018

Sunday December 24 2017

Trucks queue to pick up imported fertiliser

Trucks queue to pick up imported fertiliser being offloaded from a cargo ship at Mombasa, East Africa’s biggest and busiest port. PHOTO FILE | NATION 

By JULIUS BARIGABA
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Businesses within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) could save up to $450 million in clearance documentation once the bloc adopts blockchain technology for clearing imports.

Comesa is looking to roll out a digital free trade area — the first in Africa — modelled along the Malaysian Free Trade Zone, where parties to a transaction are connected in real time through a web of ledgers that are secure.

The application also supports generation of an electronic certificate of origin whose authenticity can be verified using national information technology systems.
This will be a marked break from the current practice which involves manual applications and physical presentation of documents to tax bodies and other government agencies that cause businesses delays.

Trade financiers could be the biggest losers once the system is in place.

“We ar