•They want truck drivers issued with licenses valid for at least two weeks.
•Increase in Covid-19 cases attributed to cross-border cargo movement across EAC partner states.
The region's business community has called for increased collaboration to speed up cross-border movement of cargo, even as governments fight the spread of coronavirus.
There have been delays at border points, mainly the Kenya-Uganda border at Malaba which is a key transit point along the Northern Corridor that is heavily dependent on the port of Mombasa.
CEOs of national private sector associations in the region held an online meeting this week to assess the status of the transport and logistics sector in light of the outbreak of Covid-19 in the EAC region, which has reported more than 950 cases.
The recent increase in the number of positive cases is attributed to cross-border cargo movement across the EAC partner states.
The business groups want EAC partner states to implement a coordinated regional approach on Covid-19 to facilitate free movement of cargo.
“EAC partner states should harmonise measures on Covid-19 and ensure the health measures do not cause unnecessary cost and time burden to the free movement of goods and services across borders in the region,” they said in a joint communique.
The groups want states to facilitate free movement of cargo from the point of origin to the destination.
State organs and individuals should also fast track clearance of cargo at the borders to avoid long queues and congestion by ensuring cargo is seamlessly flowing without restrictions. Where a relay system and transhipment of cargo is adopted, the process should not lead to exorbitant costs that could adversely affect transporters and, consequently, consumers.
They further want issuance of certificates to truck drivers valid for at least two weeks.
“The certificate notwithstanding the drivers will also undergo mandatory temperature checks at the designated checkpoints,” they said.
Governments and the private sector should ensure all clearing and forwarding services, loading and offloading equipment as well as warehousing facilities are available at the borders to reduce border clearance time.
They called for rapid testing and joint border management, which would build confidence and fast track movement of goods in the borders.
This can be achieved by increasing the number of testing kits for truck drivers, increasing the number of health staff and other staff at the borders and harmonisation of working hours of trade facilitation agencies and essential services at the One-Stop Border Posts in the EAC.
The regional bodies pushing for the reforms include the East African Business Council (EABC) led by Peter Mathuki, Private Sector Federation- Rwanda (PSF) led by Stephen Ruzibiza and the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) led by Godfrey Simbeye.
Others are the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), Federal Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture – Burundi (CFCIB), Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), Zanzibar Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) and the South Sudan Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (SSCCIA).
Edited by Henry Makori