KIGALI - The increasing Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs) in the region are choking trade in the East African Community (EAC), the Minister of Trade, François Kanimba has said.
The EAC Common Market Protocol came into effect in July last year to eliminate the trade barriers. However, they still exist and continue to undermine the free movement of goods prescribed under the protocol, especially along in the Central Corridor (Dar es Salaam - Kigali) route.
The barriers include, bad roads, delays at border crossings and lack of harmonised import and export standards and procedures.
“Most NTBs are simply another means of protection equivalent to a tariff,” the minister said during a stakeholders meeting on validation of the national strategy and plan for the elimination of NTBs which was held in Kigali.
Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi incur the greatest cost of NTBs due to the distance from the main ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam.
“If one takes the example of a weigh bridge that charges a fee on transit trucks, it is equivalent to levying a tariff on imports to Rwanda given not only the fee but also the delays involved,” Kanimba said.
“Reducing the time and cost to exporters and importers is thus paramount to Rwanda’s increased regional integration and trade facilitation, but also to sustaining growth in the long run,” he said.
Mladen Milanovic, a trade expert with Trade Mark East Africa, said that the completion of 28 transport infrastructure projects proposed by the Corridor Diagnostic Study will, by 2015, see Rwanda save over US$42.1 million (approx. Rwf 25bn) in transport costs through both import and exports.
“This will help in reducing the time and cost of imports and exports by 10 percent and 20 percent respectively and improve Rwanda’s ranking in doing business,” he said
Vincent Safari, the Coordinator of the National Monitoring Committee on NTBs in the Ministry of Trade, said that Rwanda has come up with a national strategy and plan to eliminate NTBs.
“We are constantly participating in NTBs regional meetings, advocating and lobbying through the EAC Secretariat and East Africa Business Council to see that all these barriers are removed,” he said, adding that Rwanda has also published two evidence-based surveys on NTBs along the Central and Northern corridors.