EAC bloc pledges to ease trade through reforms

UNCTAD Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi at the Africa eCommerce Week in Nairobi, Kenya.(Photo by UNCTAD)

Five East African countries have pledged at a Ministerial meeting on Thursday to implement trade facilitation reforms to boost economic integration in the region.

Representatives from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda have agreed to make trade between them and other countries cheaper, faster and simpler by reducing non-tariff barriers such as ‘burdensome product regulations’.

The meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on the side-lines of the on-going Africa eCommerce Week was moderated by the UNCTAD Secretary General and former Kenyan trade Minister Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi.

“The EAC is a driving force in Africa, displaying good practice in the implementation of trade facilitation reforms,” Kituyi said.

“This is an opportunity for the EAC countries, many of which are landlocked, to sell their products within the region, in Africa and across the whole world,” according to Frederick Ngobi Gume, Uganda’s Minister for Cooperatives, whose country is currently chair of the EAC.

“Such an approach reduces bureaucracy, with online clearances reducing contacts at the border.”

Though details of the agreement are scanty, it comes as most African countries have signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement in March, 2018 to facilitate better trading between regional blocs on the continent.

Within the EAC, only Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have ratified the continental agreement. Tanzania has however signed the agreement.

Intra-EAC trade, while low compared to regions outside Africa, is the highest among regional economic communities in Africa at 19.35% of exports.

Kituyi added; “UNCTAD has supported the institutional architecture of trade facilitation in the East Africa region for many years. For example, we have helped launch trade portals, which simplify trade procedures and reduce the time and cost of trade transactions in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda – and soon in Tanzania.”