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INCREASING EFFICIENCY

Regional e-tracking of cargo a boost to trade in new normal

Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking enables seamless movement of goods within EAC.

In Summary

• Earlier this month, EAC partner states re-launched the platform to include the tracking of drivers and crews.

• The system is now an effective mitigation strategy and has improved the efficiency of cargo movement within the region.

Cargo Freight Containers in Embakasi, Nairobi. Image:
Cargo Freight Containers in Embakasi, Nairobi. Image:
Image: CHARLENE MALWA

Shocks emanating from unforeseen shifts in the magnitude of Covid-19 have warranted the majority to make timely adjustments to traditional routines.

Already, the world has seen significant changes sweeping across industries with automation and digitisation becoming the new normal.

For instance, no longer are we favouring face to face meeting there being elaborate platforms to hold the gatherings remotely.

Similarly, the workplace has shifted with employers and employees accessing output and not hours to establish the quality of work.

As such, human resource managers, boards and even CEOs have been forced to shift their thinking in the new normal.

Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking

The enforced changes have also seen the dynamics change in the transport sector and more so from a regional perspective.

While regional borders remain closed to people owing to risks emanating from the pandemic, cargo movement has remained essential as an enabler to the movement of key food and medical supplies.

Among the crucial changes implemented has been the adoption of the electronic tracking of both cargo and freight crews.

Logistics and new sophisticated automation tools, remains the most powerful platform both for private and public sector leadership, to move forward, the economic growth in a very challenging environment.

Dubbed as the Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking (RECT) this innovation has enabled the seamless movement of goods within the East African Community (EAC).

However, the innovation was years ahead of the pandemic making for a case of making hay while the sun shines.

The RECT system was first set up in February 2017 as EAC authorities sought to track trailers travelling within the Northern Corridor.

Initially, the motivation behind the move was to combat hijacking, the theft of goods and diversion, tampering and the eventual speed up of journeys across the EAC countries.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has since seen enhanced collections of tax as it is able to verify goods on transit and levy fees accordingly.

Nevertheless, the implementation has earlier faced resistance from a number of players sighting the lack of training and familiarity with the system.

In spite of opposition, the platform has emerged as a crucial part in the cog enabling continued trading six months on since the hit from the global health crisis.

Timely

With opposition to the system having eased in months leading up to the pandemic, the roll-out of initiative in unison between partners’ states has become a blessing in disguise in the midst of Covid-19.

Earlier this month, EAC partner states re-launched the platform to include the tracking of drivers and crews.

The system is now an effective mitigation strategy and has improved the efficiency of cargo movement within the region.

Today, no driver is allowed to depart from the port of Mombasa without being aligned to his or her cargo in the system.

The timely verification of Covid-19 certificates has dropped the multi-testing of drivers at all points of entry curing extended queues of truckers at border points stretching for kilometres.

The manual verification of the certificates had previously triggered widespread protests by drivers causing lengthy delays in the dispatch and arrival of cargo across borders.

The roll-out of the system has since drawn praise from the World Customs Organization (WCO) for its innovation.

Meanwhile, while launching Covid-19 cross-border trade report in Addis Ababa earlier in September, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) called for the adoption of similar measure to allow trade facilitation at present and in the post-pandemic.

Trade

Continued trade facilitation is expected to remain vital as the continent endeavours to reach its 2063 sustainable development goals (SDGs).

In my view, the growth of trade and infrastructure within Intra Africa , will give the economies much-needed thrust plus create new employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Demand for goods and services supported by a youthful population makes a positive impact, for the private sector to drive further investments.

The maintenance of trade flows between countries is expected to remain a pivotal pillar in the implementation of additional trade initiatives including the now active Africa free continental trade area (AfCTA).

Road transportation is expected to remain crucial to the desired efficiency in intra-trading between not just Africa but also the rest of the world. Renewable Energy projects continue to grow and supplement and if not, will trigger further investments in the region.

According to estimates, up to 90 per cent of goods transported through the EAC are transported by road.

About 600 to 1,000 trucks are believed to operate daily between the Mombasa and Kampala corridor.

The central monitoring of cargo and the availability of real-time information is expected to reduce freight charges enabling higher trading volumes between countries.

Trade within the EAC has for instance strengthened under the cloud of innovation to cargo tracking and monitoring.

According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) the value of exports and imports between Kenya and EAC increased steadily to Sh140 and Sh68 billion respectively in 2019.

The greater Eastern Africa region has now made advanced plans to broaden the regional corridor for trip monitoring with is set to create a system covering three custom unions including the EAC, Comesa and SADC.

The future of the private and public sector is driving the actions on the ground as the implementation of automation and infrastructure developments coupled with health of the citizens will greatly spur the much-needed recovery that the world needs.

Let's keep healthy and safe.

Chris Diaz is the Director East Africa Business Council and Trustee Brand Africa.

@DiazchrisAfrica