Malawi is one of the countries that is expected to benefit from Common Market for eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa)’s programme aimed at strengthening the management of standards and phytosanitary (SPS) measures in the region.
The programme, called Prioritisation of SPS Investments for Market Access (P-IMA) was launched last week in Uganda and will also benefit Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda.
As an agro-based economy, Malawi needs to manage well the SPS Programme to grow exports.
Meanwhile, the country is grappling with SPS challenges, mainly aflatoxin in its groundnuts and foot and mouth diseases in livestock, which have cost the country’s export opportunities.
According to a 2015 survey on the implementation of SPS measures to facilitate safe trade, Malawi is a major producer of groundnuts in the region which is exported to Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Before 1970, the country used to export huge volumes of groundnuts to the United Kingdom (UK) for use in the confectionary industry.
However, the country lost the international market because of the high levels of aflatoxin, which do not comply with the limits set by the European Union (EU).
Therefore, with the current five year Comesa programme, Malawi can reclaim the lost international market and grow its export base.
According to a press statement posted on the Comesa website, the programme is an evidence-based approach to inform and improve SPS planning and decision-making in the region.
“Its benefits include having enhanced public-private dialogue, evidence to support programmes design and fundraising, high level awareness about value of investing in SPS capacity building, transparency and accountability and greater resource efficiency,” it reads.
Speaking at the launch in Kampala , Uganda, Comesa assistant secretary general for programmes, Ambassador Kupyego Cheluget, attributed low intra-trade levels in the region to the varied SPS and technical barriers to trade and regulatory frameworks across Comesa member states.
He also attributed the low intra-trade levels to low levels of compliance amongst regional mall and medium enterprises.
Comesa is working in collaboration with the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) and TradeMark East Africa. n