ARUSHA - The East African Business Council has launched a campaign where it will publish a monthly update on the status and removal of trade barriers. In the campaign, EABC will publish a list of persistent and new barriers hampering trade in the region.
The list, which will be generated every month from EABC Members and National Monitoring Committees, will also indicate the government departments that have continuously frustrated trade in the region.
“Non-tariff barriers remain the biggest obstacles to free movement of goods in the region,” Faustin Mbundu, Chairman of East African Business Council, said. “We want to challenge the EAC governments to show more commitment towards reduction of trade barriers.”
Although East African Community (EAC) partner states, committed to elimination of non-tariff barriers under Article 13 of the East African Customs Union Protocol, EAC Partner States have shown little commitment to eliminate trade barriers, “There still is a big disconnect between agreed legislations and policies at regional and actual implementation which has contributed to persistence of trade barriers, five years after EAC began implementing the Customs Union,” Mr. Mbundu said.
Although the East African Community, in 2008, instituted National Non-Tariff Barriers Monitoring Committees to monitor progress in elimination of trade barriers, the Committees have not been effective as earlier envisaged.
“The committees do not meet regularly even when they do, there is little to show for it in terms of eliminated barriers. As result, most barriers have persisted and new ones have since been introduced,” Mr. Mbundu said.
The persistent barriers include lengthy customs administrative documentation procedures; lengthy and duplicated immigration procedures; cumbersome inspection requirements; unharmonised standards; Police road blocks, among others.
According to the list published by EABC, the most notorious government agencies and departments include revenue authorities, police, bureaus of standards, immigration, and local government. Kenya and Tanzania have the highest number of reported trade barriers.
Trade barriers often impact unfavourably on business, increasing the cost doing business through official and unofficial payments to clear goods at the borders; general expenses incurred by businesses at border points; value and quantity of wasted products during inspection and cost of time lost in understanding and complying with un-transparent and cumbersome procedures. “This has a direct bearing on the region’s competitiveness,” Mr. Mbundu said.
The problem is further worsened by poor infrastructure and absence of a functioning rail system which has made East African Community one of the regions with the highest cost of doing business.
Although studies have shown that intra-regional trade has improved since the advent of East African Customs Union, it still remains low when compared with other regional economic communities.
“Trade within EAC will not grow to the desired levels unless our governments show commitment to eliminating various trade barriers in the spirit of integration,” Mr. Mbundu said.