Project Name: Regional Trade Facilitation Programme
Donor: DFID
Location: SADC and COMESA regions
Time Span: 2003 – 2009

Between 2003 and 2009 Imani Development was responsible for implementation of DFID’s Regional Trade Facilitation Programme (RTFP) in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA). At the time, this was DFID’s flagship regional trade and integration project worldwide, with a total budget of GBP16 million.

About the project: 

The RTFP aimed to facilitate increased trade in the ESA region and aid contribution to the larger goal of job creation and increased incomes for the poor within the SADC and COMESA regions and subsequently the EAC region. This was achieved through our implementation team working closely with the Secretariats of COMESA, EAC and SADC to facilitate their regional integration agendas as well as with national public and private sectors stakeholders. It pioneered an initiative to harmonise the free trade areas of the three RECS in the region (COMESA, EAC and SADC). The RTFP played a pivotal role in the successful organisation of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Summit held in October 2008, which subsequently led to the development of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA).

The Programme Implementation Unit was staffed with five full time professionals who administered this programme and controlled the funds available for specific interventions in accordance with the required programme outputs. In addition, we provided long-term trade advisors to the Secretariats of COMESA and SADC, as well as various short-term technical inputs for specific activities in the various technical fields, including: customs administration, trade facilitation, trade negotiations, trade policy, non-tariff barriers, rules of origin, trade and poverty linkages, technical barriers to trade and SPS issues, trade in services, foreign direct investment and one-stop border posts.

This project had significant impact in a number of key areas. These included the following:

  • Reduction of time and costs for transporters, traders and ultimately the consumers through a number of RTFP initiatives. These included:
    • the pioneering work of establishing the Chirundu One-Stop Border Post (Zambia-Zimbabwe)
    • establishment of a template for development of transport corridors in the region
    • Elimination of prohibitive border procedures through work on customs harmonisation and regional bond guarantee systems
    • The pioneering work on monitoring non-tariff barriers (NTBs) which provided a practical framework for the elimination of barriers that would otherwise be difficult to identify and bring to the negotiating table, but which often affected the poorest traders most of all
  • Increased incomes of small scale farmers through RTFP’s support to well-established small farmers (tea, coffee, nuts) to ensure market share was maintained and expanded, as well as support to newer commodities (e.g. natural products) which had the potential for promising results. An example of this was the support given to a smallholder tea association in Tanzania which, in the year after the support from the project, increased its exports of tea to South Africa by over $2m. Furthermore, the export of Fair trade and/or organic groundnuts, cashew and bird-food (made from nuts) originating from Malawi and Mozambique to Europe grew almost 11 fold from 73MT in 2006 to 777MT over a two-year period following involvement by the project
  • Strengthened capacity of the LDC Group at the WTO resulting, inter alia, in securing Duty Free Quota Free (DFQF) market access as part of the Doha Round in the WTO

Imani Development was awarded a number 1 rating in the final project evaluation, meaning the project had not only met the planned outcomes but had exceeded them. It is therefore helpful to briefly look at what factors contributed to this successful outcome and thus what lessons could be learned from the project.

Lessons learnt: 

  • The RTFP’s flexibility in instruments, timing and nature of response enabled it to respond very quickly to the evolving regional and international trade and economic integration agendas since its commencement of operation
  • The RTFP’s broad approach to trade facilitation, which included a mandate to influence policy in this respect, enabled it to support significant reforms and to generate considerable impact
  • Strategic leadership by the Programme Management Unit (PMU) was crucial for continuous innovation and programme relevance
  • Strong ownership by the RECs Secretariats, and a clear mandate to reform, was crucial for success and enabling political buy-in
  • Good management of a large-scale complex programme required adequate resources. It is vital to ensure that the right number and range of skilled staff are in place, and that they are supported by efficient business systems and processes
  •  Monitoring and evaluation requirements should be built into programme design not only for programme assessment and lesson learning, but also for sharing relevant information with partners and stakeholders
  • Continuous and correct communication of toolkits, programme activities and achievements are essential for building support and attracting strong regional and global interest
  • The strong relationship that had been developed between the implementing consultants and the client had enabled an efficient and effective governance structure to be established through which all parties worked closely together to ensure project outcomes were achieved