By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
A regional electronic Corridor Trip Monitoring System (CTMS) is one of the immediate remedial response to Covid-19 in an effort to improve border transactions, says Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
CTMS was approved last year by the tripartite group to allow cross border road transport operators, drivers, regulators and law enforcement agencies to record and monitor driver wellness data such as Covid-19 test results.
COMESA Secretary General, Chileshe Kapwepwe, said the Covid-19 pandemic had exposed the shortcomings of the African health infrastructure and the fragility of the transport sector.
Ms Kapwepwe therefore citied the CTMS as one of the immediate remedial response to the pandemic.
She said this in her address to the 12th join meeting conducted virtually for COMESA’s ministers of infrastructure.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of the African health infrastructure, the fragility of the transport sector (especially the aviation sector) and the vital role that ICT sector plays in sustaining economic and social activities during lockdowns and implementation of social distancing,” she said.
In her address, Ms Kapwepwe underscored the importance of infrastructure in protecting the economy and people’s lives.
And COMESA ministers of infrastructure urged member states to deploy regional ICT systems such as CTMS to enhance data and information sharing.
They believed that deploying such would improve regulation and progressively digitise border transactions and avoid paper-based transactions which are easy to falsify and are a Covid-19 vector.
Meanwhile, COMESA called on member states to scale up programmes to upgrade and maintain infrastructure facilities.
In their 12th join meeting conducted virtually, the ministers of infrastructure also called for the adaptation and implementation of COMESA transit instruments to improve transport corridors efficiency.
According to the communiqué, the ministers responsible for Transport, Energy and Information, Communication Technology (ICT) acknowledged the huge infrastructure efficiency gap across the region as a pressing policy priority.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) estimated that the annual infrastructure funding gap was between US$68 billion and US$108 billion across the continent.
In their communiqué, the ministers invited Member States to take up the financing, technical assistance, and capacity building opportunities available under the Regional Infrastructure Finance Facility (RIFF) of the World Bank and other development partners to help address the gap.
The RIIF is one of the latest major infrastructure financing facility signed in August last year aimed at expanding long-term finance to private firms in selected infrastructure sectors in Eastern and Southern Africa.
RIIF had two components with US$ 10 million grant to COMESA to provide technical assistance and capacity building to member states, with special focus on private sector.
Another component was US$415 million credit to Trade and Development Bank for infrastructure projects covering renewable energy, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and transport and technical assistance facility.
In their decision on facilitating transit infrastructure, the Ministers urged Member States to connect border posts to the national electricity grid or install backup power services to reduce down time due to load shedding and power outages.
They called on all agencies working at border posts to be harmonised by adopting Integrated Border Management systems to complement the One Stop Border Points (OSBP).