Exporting to COMESA

The COMESA traditional market (including EAC) account for over 38% of the Kenya’s total exports. The COMESA market the rest of Africa absorbs products with substantial value addition, mainly manufactures.  Kenya’s export to African countries in the year 2006 was nearly a half of its total exports. Therefore because of its importance and the existing opportunities the COMESA market, it is imperative for business people to understand the entry requirements. This is a series of articles aimed at enabling exporters to gain understanding the COMESA Rules of Origin in order to benefit from preferential access.

•The COMESA member states where the rules of origin apply include; Angola, Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe respectively.

•The COMESA rules of origin are a set of rules outlining the procedures governing the certification and verification of evidence tendered in support of a claim of eligibility for Common Market preferential tariff treatment under the provisions of the Protocol. They were conceived at a Council of Ministers meeting held in Lilongwe, Malawi, in December 1994 to facilitate exchange of Products to be traded between the member States of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.

•The Article set out the criteria identifying which products qualify as originating in any of the member States. The criteria are as follows;

  • Goods wholly produced or obtained in a member State (that is, no materials from outside the Common Market have been used);
  • Goods produced in the member States and the c.i.f. value of any foreign (that is, non-COMESA) materials used does not exceed 60% of the total cost of all materials used in their production;
  • Goods produced in member States whose value added resulting from the process of production accounts for at least 35% of the ex-factory cost of the goods;
  • Goods produced in member States and are classified or become classified under a tariff heading other than the tariff heading under which they were imported; or
    E.Goods of particular importance to the economic development of the Member States and containing not less than 25% value added.

NB: The exporter is free to base his claim to COMESA tariff treatment on either of the criteria described at (a) to (e) above, according to which of them has been complied with in the production process. Goods qualifying for the COMESA certificate of Origin enjoy Duty and Quota free entry into other member states markets subject to the said goods complying with the stipulated national standards of the importing country.

A:   Goods Wholly Produced in the Member States constitute the following;

  • Mineral products extracted from the ground or seabed of the member States;
  • Vegetable products harvested within the member States;
  • Live animals born and raised within the member States;
  • Products obtained from live animals within the member States;
  • Products obtained by hunting or fishing conducted within the member States;
  • Products obtained from the sea and from rivers and lakes within the member States by a vessel of a member State;
  • Products manufactured in a factory of a member State exclusively from the products sourced locally;
  • Used articles fit only for the recovery of materials, provided that such articles have been collected from users within the member States;
  • Scrap and waste resulting from manufacturing operations within the Member State;
  • Goods produced within the member States exclusively or mainly from one or both of the following:
    Products referred to above
    Materials containing no element imported from outside the member states or of undetermined origin

Processes not conferring Origin

The following operations and processes shall be considered as insufficient to support a claim that goods originate from a member State:

  • Packaging, bottling, placing in flasks, bags, cases and boxes, fixing on cards or boards and all other simple packaging operations;
  • Simple mixing of ingredients imported from outside member States
  • Simple assembly of components and parts imported from outside the member
    States to constitute a complete product;
  • Simple mixing and assembly where the costs of the ingredients, parts and components imported from outside member States and used in any of such processes exceed 60 per cent of the total costs of the ingredients, parts and components used.
  • Operations to ensure the preservation of merchandise in good condition during transportation and storage such as ventilation, spreading out, drying, freezing, placing in brine, sulphur dioxide or other aqueous solutions, removal of damaged parts and similar operations;
  • Changes of packing and breaking up of or assembly of consignments;
  • Marking, labelling or affixing other like distinguishing signs on products or their packages;
  • Simple operations consisting of removal of dust, sifting or screening, sorting, classifying and matching, including the making up of sets of goods, washing, painting and cutting up;
  • A combination of two or more of the above operations
  • Slaughter of animals.

Who qualifies to take the COMESA certificate of origin?
•Persons and firms engaged in intra-COMESA trade
•Exporter but who is not producer. The exporter to obtain from producer information concerning the specific criteria complied with in the production of the said goods
•Importers of goods from within the COMESA market

Issuance of the COMESA Certificate of Origin
•Each member state designates a certifying authority which is familiar with the requirements of the COMESA Protocol on Rules of Origin and is able to carry out the requisite checks that will determine whether the certificates can properly be authenticated.
•In the case of Kenya, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) issues the COMESA certificate of origin

Instructions for completing the Certificate of Origin Form
•Persons and firms engaged in intra-COMESA trade should keep adequate records of all transaction for a minimum period of five years.
•These records will be useful incase of disputes and value addition verification of information relating to any particular consignment be required.
•The following letters should be used when completing a certificate in the appropriate place:
"P" for goods satisfying the wholly produced criterion
"M" for goods satisfying the material content of the substantial transformation criterion
"V" for goods satisfying the value-added content of the substantial transformation criterion
"X" for goods satisfying the change of tariff heading of the substantial transformation criterion
"Y" for goods satisfying the criterion of particular economic importance to the member States
•Any process may complete the forms provided that the entities are legible and permanent.
•Erasures and super-impositions are not allowed on the certificate. Any alterations should be made by striking out the erroneous entry (ies) and making any additions required.
•Any unused spaces should be crossed out to prevent any subsequent addition.
If warranted by export trade requirements, one or more copies may be drawn up in addition to the original.

Role of the COMESA Secretariat

  • A representative of the COMESA Secretariat shall be associated in such investigations in a "good offices" capacity. If the parties are unable, despite these efforts, to resolve the dispute, the matter shall be referred to the Secretary General for an opinion.
  • Should any of the parties consider the opinion offered by the Secretary General unsatisfactory, it shall inform the other party and the Secretary General accordingly. The Secretary General shall then refer the matter to the Bureau of Council of Ministers for consideration and recommendation of the course of action to resolve the dispute to the parties and the Secretary General.
  • If any of the parties is still dissatisfied with the recommendation of the Bureau of Council, it shall communicate such dissatisfaction to both the Bureau of Council and the Secretary General. The Secretary General shall then refer the matter to the COMESA Court of Justice for the review of the submissions made by the parties concerned and shall make a final ruling which shall be binding on all parties.

Disputes regarding the certificates of Origin

Treatment of minor queries:

  • The Customs Authorities may refuse a claim of COMESA tariff treatment if there is reason to doubt the correctness of the particulars declared to them. Minor inaccuracies or omissions of a clerical or similar nature detected on a certificate of origin (for example, the omission of the weight or other quantity, or insertion of an incorrect Customs tariff number), may be allowed to be put right by the importer without rejection of the claim to COMESA treatment.
  • Similarly, it may become necessary in some cases to direct that the goods be physically examined to dispel any doubt or uncertainty that may have arisen in the course of the processing of the import entry as regards the origin of the goods, without at that stage making a formal query or eligibility for COMESA tariff treatment.
    Foreign markings on the goods or other physical evidence (e.g. instructions in a foreign language, packaging of an unrelated kind) should not be overlooked in the Customs examination as these may point to the need for further enquiry into the claim to COMESA tariff treatment.

Treatment of queries of a more serious nature
Where serious doubts arise about the eligibility of any consignment of goods for COMESA tariff treatment (for example, claim of wholly produced for certain kinds of machinery, description of goods on the invoice different from that appearing in the certificate of origin, indication of dubious transport route, etc., a formal query of the evidence of origin presented may be communicated by the Customs Authorities in the importing Member State to the relevant authorities in the Member State where the certificate of origin was issued.

What to do if doubts persist about the origin of goods
Normally, the raising of a query by an importing Member State and the provision of a response verifying the evidence of origin should dispose of the matter, either confirming the claim of COMESA origin, or resulting in its rejection.

1.Joint on-the-spot investigation
Should there be further doubts in the minds of the importing customs authorities; a joint on the spot investigation is done in the state where production was carried out.

2.Co-opting of technical experts
Depending upon the origin criterion that is applicable to the goods under investigation and the nature of the production process involved, independent Technical experts could be co-opted to assist in such on-the-spot investigations.

Further Information:
For further information regarding the list of goods that qualify for COMESA certificate of origin please log into www.comesa.int/trade/goods.

For issuance of COMESA Certificate of Origin in Kenya – Contact Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA)

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