A newly launched joint report by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) and African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) has noted that declines in imports broadly reflected the adverse trade performance of the EAC’s main trading partners (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda) during the early phases of the pandemic in April and May 2020.
The imports of all the EAC Partner States subsequently recovered to pre-pandemic levels by the second half of 2020, after government lockdown restrictions were eased, and a broader global trade recovery started to take place. However, despite that and a show of resilience by the EAC states, COVID-19 has indeed reversed some of the gains made in trade facilitation.
The report indicates that the increase in transit times highlight the challenges at the border points, in that: Immediately after Covid_19 outbreak, the ship dwell time at Mombasa port increased by 48 percent and Berth time increased by 52 percent.
Cargo transit from Mombasa Port to Malaba increased from seven days to 11 days by the second quarter of 2020.
This meant that, time taken to transport goods via the Mombasa-Busia route was nearly three times higher.
On the Central Corridor, the transit time from Dar-es-Salaam to various cities in the neighbouring countries more than doubled.
Some of the key recommendations from the report is for the EAC Partner States to continue providing financial and regulatory support to key export sectors and more so to those that have shown resilience since the advent of the pandemic.
The EAC Partner States have been urged to double-down on policies to diversify their economies. This is because, excessive commodity export dependence still exposes the regional economy to unnecessary risks.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could be instrumental in achieving this goal.