EDITORIAL: Removal of NTBs paying dividends despite new setbacks

A lot has been done to improve the business environment in East Africa over the past five years by eliminating most of the Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), especially along the Northern Corridor.

A lot has been done to improve the business environment in East Africa over the past five years by eliminating most of the Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), especially along the Northern Corridor.  

It now takes cargo trucks about five days from Mombasa to Kigali, down from over 21 days previously. The improvement is attributed to the removal of unnecessary weighbridges along the trade route, border delays, and the fact that shipments are now cleared at the first port of entry under the single customs territory.

 

This has helped Rwandan traders using the Northern Corridor to save time and money and hence reduce the cost of doing business. However, the Central Corridor continues to present challenges, forcing many traders to switch to the Mombasa port despite being a longer distance.

 

Besides the poor infrastructure, numerous roadblocks and weighbridges, there are cases of delays in clearing goods, corruption and theft at Dar es Salaam.

 

The situation, however, improved after President John Pombe Magufuli intervened and directed for removal of the majority of the weighbridges, reducing them from eight to three.

The development has helped trackers save up to 78 per cent of weighbridge stoppage times, a development that could attract more Rwandan businesses to use Dar port.

But challenges still abound despite the improvements and need to be addressed to promote trade along the Central Corridor.

The local business community complains that Tanzania has introduced transit stickers that cost $40 which to them is a step backwards and should be resolved urgently.

There also seem to be inconsistencies in the implementation of the Tanzanian President’s directive on weighbridges that need to be addressed as some truckers are not yet fully satisfied.

It is crucial for EAC member states to understand that improving the business environment benefits all stakeholders and enhances trade and earnings. So, Tanzanian authorities should be more interested in attracting more traffic instead of collecting small fees. The same goes for other EAC states.

Besides, the removal of NTBs is key to reducing the cost of trade in the region and increasing efficiency along the two corridors.

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