ACROSS BORDERS

EABC calls for harmonisation of Covid-19 fees to boost trade

Currently, Covid-19 tests are priced differently in each Partner State EAC Partner States

In Summary
  • This is set to support businesses to be more resilient and rebound amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The lack of harmonization of Covid-19 testing rates in accredited laboratories and uncoordinated waiting time for the test results is disrupting cross-border trade.
Entry POINT: A billboard gives direction to the Kenya Revenue Authority offices at the Kenya-Tanzania border of Namanga/FILE
Entry POINT: A billboard gives direction to the Kenya Revenue Authority offices at the Kenya-Tanzania border of Namanga/FILE

The East African Business Council (EABC) wants all Covid-19 related charges between the regional countries lowered and harmonised to ease the cost of doing business and boost intra-EAC trade.

This, it said,  will help businesses to be more resilient and rebound amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The EAC Secretariat should fast track regional coordination and harmonisation of measures on Covid-19 for economic resilience and growth of the EAC bloc,” said Peter Mathuki, CEO EABC. 

Currently, Covid-19 tests are priced differently in each EAC countries, while containment measures are varied.

Tanzania and Burundi charge a standard rate of $100(Sh10,955) for both nationals and foreigners while charges vary in other partner states.

Mathuki further called for the establishment of a common quarantine period in the region and fast-tracking of the waiting time for Covid-19 test results.

He said lack of harmonisation of Covid-19 testing rates in accredited laboratories and uncoordinated waiting time for results is disrupting cross-border trade.

EABC said Covid-19 related Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) continue to hinder cross-border trade due to different measures on Covid-19 in the region.

 As of October 2020, the World Bank predicted growth in Sub-Saharan Africa to fall to negative 3.3 per cent in 2020, driven by the economic challenges posed by the global pandemic.

Different preventive and restrictive measures undertaken by EAC states to control the spread of Covid-19 have significantly slowed down trade, movement of persons and integration.

The trickle-down effects of these measures have also been felt across affiliated industries and the rest of the economy.

Mathuki said that reduction and harmonisation of Covid-19 related NTBs will also enable businesses to tap into the opportunities availed by the  African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

AfCFTA prioritises addressing challenges in trade policy, productive capacity, hard and soft infrastructure, trade information and market integration which are critical for doing business in the continent,” he said.

The Covid-19 pandemic has heavily impacted regional trade, which has seen a rise in NTBs, with most manufacturers now shifting attention to local markets

In 2018 Kenya’s trade with EAC partner states increased by 4.7 percent to $1.95 billion from $1.86 billion in 2017, mainly on account of increased business with Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda.

In the first three months  of 2020 Kenya’s exports to neighbouring EAC countries grew by 30 percent to Sh42.9 billion from Sh32.92 billion in the same period in 2019 while total imports declined by 10 percent to Ksh12.04 billion, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data shows.

According to the World Customs Organisation(WCO), lack of co-operation and connectedness among government agencies has also been cited as a hindrance to intra-Africa trade.

The WCO recommends agencies involved in border management to step in and play their part to boost inter-agency co-operation.