Regional businesses have decried the persistence of non-tariff barriers which they say often gets in the way of their operations.
Presenting their challenges before the East African Business Council and officials of the East Africa secretariat, operators said that non-tarrif barriers continue to be the largest impediment to their operations.
The meeting came at a time when the business community members across the region has been said to be experiencing hardships which some said had led them to incur losses.
Among the products that have been experiencing difficulties in trade, they said, include insurance products and medical supplies often due to uneven standards and conditions.
Christine Mukundwa, Head of Corporate Business at Sonarwa General Insurance Company, said that local insurance players are still finding difficulties to help out their local clients in the event of incidences when travelling within the region.
Dr Abel Dushimimana the Chairperson of Importers of Pharmaceutical Products, said that one of the major challenges is that some member states still have to subject medicines that are manufactured in the region to multiple standard checks despite the bilateral and multilateral agreements that have been signed.
“It is surprising that some member states are still subjecting medicines manufactured from other partner states to multiple standard checks on claims of doubt, it is unacceptable because it is stalling businesses especially as importers,” he said.
The Executive Director of the EABC, Peter Mathuki, said that the organ is seeking to reclaim its autonomy as it is stipulated in the EAC mission statement; private sector-led integration.
Denis Karera, Vice Chairman of EABC and Head of Rwanda Delegation at EABC, called upon local business leaders to be part of the umbrella body and grow its membership as it would amplify their voice.
“What you have to first work on is the registration to become active members of the body because as they say ‘if you want to go quick, go alone but if you want to go far you go as a group with numbers we stand tall and strong,” he said.
Kenneth Bagamuhunda, Director General Customs and Trade at the EAC secretariat, said that his office has already installed a technical working group specifically to listen and act on the issues of the business community in the region.
Statistics from the Central Bank show that Rwanda’s export to EAC countries in 2018 amounted to 17.6 per cent of the total formal exports while imports from EAC states accounted for 22.1 per cent of total imports.