Harmonization of road transport laws between Cape Town to Cairo in offing

Cross border road transport laws, regulations, standards and systems are set to be harmonized from Cape to Cairo following the endorsement of two anchor Multilateral Agreements and five Model Laws. The COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Sectoral Ministerial Committee on Legal Affairs (TSMCLA) endorsed the Tripartite Draft Legal Instruments on Transport and Transit Facilitation during a virtual meeting held on 18 September 2020. The two anchor Multilateral Agreements are the COMESA-EAC-SADC Vehicle Load Management Agreement (VLMA) and the COMESA-EAC-SADC Multilateral Cross Border Road Transport Agreement (MCBRTA).

The two had been adopted by the Tripartite Sectoral Ministerial Committee on Infrastructure (TSMCI) at its 2nd meeting held in October 2019 in Lusaka, Zambia. The Tripartite is the planned merger of the three trading blocs of SADC, COMESA and EAC into one trading bloc. This means that all countries that fall under SADC, COMESA and EAC will operate under similar laws governing road transport.

The accompanying model laws endorsed are COMESA-EAC-SADC Vehicle Load Management Model Law; COMESA-EAC-SADC Cross Border Road Transport Model Law; COMESA-EAC-SADC Road Traffic Model Law; Draft COMESA-EAC-SADC Road Traffic and Transport Transgressions Model Law; and Draft COMESA-EAC-SADC Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road Model Law. The instruments will be presented for consideration for final approval by the Tripartite Ministerial Council that will then recommend the Vehicle Load Management Agreement and the Multilateral Cross-Border Road Transport Agreement for signature, by the Heads of State and Government. The meeting of the Tripartite Council of Ministers is expected to be conducted before the end of this year (2020).

The COMESA-EAC-SADC Vehicle Load Management Agreement sets out the harmonized regulations and standards and the methodology for calculating overload fees. The purpose is to retrieve the additional cost to the infrastructure caused by overloading, as well as the permissible load limits with the view to protect the road pavement as well as to ensure road safety. This  Draft Agreement also provides the basis for cooperation between the Member/ Partner States of the Tripartite Free Trade Area regarding vehicle load management, law enforcement, information sharing, as well as mechanisms for dispute resolution.

The COMESA-EAC-SADC Multilateral Cross Border Road Transport Agreement provides for a Tripartite legal framework for harmonization of road traffic and transport-related aspects, including vehicle registration documents, transport operator registration, vehicle fitness testing, driver training and testing, as well as driving license categories based on appropriate international standards, including United Nations Standards. Further, the Draft COMESA-EAC-SADC Multilateral Cross Border Road Transport Agreement provides for a framework for enabling a comprehensive cross border road transportation management system, which is based on quality regulation as opposed to economic regulation. The transport management system is supported by an electronic Tripartite Transport Registers and Information Platform System (TRIPS), which enables the exchange of data between the Member/Partner States, from their own National Transport Information Systems (NTIS) that consist of a number of modules, amongst others a vehicle system, a driver system, an operator system and a transgression system.

The draft instruments were developed through the Tripartite Transport and Transit Facilitation Programme (TTTFP) of COMESA, EAC and SADC. The joint programme is funded by the European Union under the 11th European Development Fund. The meeting was opened by the Minister of Justice of Madagascar, Jonny Richard Andriamahefarivo and also addressed by the Executive Secretary for the Southern Africa Development Community  Dr.

Stergomena Lawrence Tax who is also the Chair of the Tripartite Task Force.

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