Regional business body calls for end to Covid-19 border testing

The East African Business Council (EABC) on Thursday, October 15, called upon the East African Community Partner States to put an end to testing of Covid-19 at border points, in order to decongest traffic at the border crossings and increase intra-EAC trade.

This follows EABC’s intensive three-day visits at the Busia One-Stop Border Post (OSBP), Malaba OSBP and Isebania border, aimed at seeking sustainable solutions to reduce recurring trucks snarl-ups which have in the last one month disrupted cross border trade and led to loss or damage of goods worth hundreds of dollars.

 

According to Dr. Peter Mutuku Mathuki, the EABC CEO, the region's various border points are facing a constant shortage of Covid-19 reagents and testing kits.

 

“Testing Covid-19 at border points should come to a stop to ease congestion of trucks which is hindering cross-border trade and reducing trade volumes, just when the region is struggling to recover from the pandemic,” said Mathuki.

 

During the three-day trip, it was unserved, distressed truck drivers awaiting and collecting their Covid-19 results are neither observing social distancing nor putting on protective masks.

The snarl-ups, as noted, are also disrupting the flow of goods thus increasing operational costs for traders, causing wastage of volumes of perishable goods and fueling corruption cases.

“Testing Covid-19 at border points should come to a stop to ease congestion of trucks which is hindering cross-border trade and reducing trade volumes, just when the region is struggling to recover from the pandemic,” said Mathuki.

Asked whether all countries would readily approve of the move, Mathuki told The New Times that: "EABC is an advocacy body, we made a visit to some border posts facing long traffic snarl-ups and came up with this as our position that will ensure this issue is resolved completely."

According to Mathuki, stopping the border tests will strengthen cross-border trade making it resilient in the face of future shocks and boost the competitiveness of East African goods in the continental and global markets.

Asked if Kigali is okay with the move, Manasseh Nshuti, Rwanda's Minister of State in charge of EAC affairs, indicated it was the right thing to do now.

Nshuti told The New Times that: "Yes we do (approve stopping border tests). Our drivers are supposed to be tested before they travel and negative test certificates uploaded to EA integrated cargo and driver tracking system whichever border post has access to."

"The diver is then sent a copy on his or her smartphone which is confirmed by the system at the board posts and allowed to proceed with his or her journey without having to test at the board post again. This saves lots of time!"

The Minister was referring to a new Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System launched on September 8.

According to a report released by EABC in September 2020, titled, ‘Impact of Covid-19 on Business and Investments in the EAC and Proposed Recovery Measures for the EAC Economies,’ 56% of businesses were affected by cross border restrictions since the pandemic hit the bloc.

As noted, 44% of regional businesses are still struggling to source raw materials to keep their businesses afloat.

The regional business body is also calling for small-scale cross-border traders, especially women, to be allowed to trade with adherence to standard operating procedures put in place by the Ministries of Health.

The EABC still called for the mutual recognition of Covid-19 certificates among EAC Partner States and deployment of more personnel from the government agencies to facilitate trade.

jkaruhanga@newtimesrwanda.com

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