Four Heads of State making up the East African Community (EAC) have finally managed to hold a consultative meeting on how to build a common stand against the COVID-19 menace that could soon hit the 2,000-mark in the region.
The meeting had been postponed on several occasions as some member-states were busy dealing with domestic problems. Putting the meeting off again this time due to the absence of two members would have been a grave error.
The main tool of propagation of infections has been identified as being cross-border truck drivers and no efforts have been spared to find a lasting solution that will not disrupt regional trade. The fear of letting in the drivers before giving them a clean bill of health has made many countries jittery.
As we put these words to paper, over 300 Tanzanian truck drivers and their crews are stuck at Namanga on their common border with Kenya. Kenyan authorities have refused them entry until they are tested, a process that takes a minimum of two days.
But down in the South-West, at the Tunduma-Nakonde border with Zambia which is Tanzania’s busiest border crossing, things are worse.
The border handles 70 per cent of all goods transiting through Tanzania for markets in Zambia, Lubumbashi in DR Congo, Malawi and to a lesser extent, Zimbabwe. So, after more than 70 Coronavirus cases were found on the Zambian side in one day, it closed the border.
One can only imagine the significance of the border closure, but it is a wakeup call for countries to act before it is too late. And that is exactly what the consultative meeting between the four EAC Heads of State sought when it called for information-sharing and cooperation. That is our only weapon.