EAC trade suffers due to border restrictions

Section of EAC Presidents (PHOTO: FILE)

NAIROBI, KENYA: The East African Business Council (EABC) is calling upon East African Community Partner States to allow movement of persons across border posts, lifting the restrictions currently in place.

A move set to boost trade-in services such as tourism and re-open closed cross-border markets.

Currently, some border posts such as the Taveta-Holili One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) and the Isebania –Sirare border post (Kenya-Tanzania) are still not allowing movement of persons despite travelers having Covid-19 certificates.

In a meeting with the Taveta-Holili Joint Border Management Committee (BMC), EABC CEO, Dr. Peter Mutuku Mathuki noted that only truck drivers and emergency cases for persons are allowed to proceed; encouraging illicit trade through porous borders.

While visiting the Lunga Lunga-Horohoro border post, (Kenya-Tanzania) Dr Mathuki noted that the movement of persons had declined sharply. As at December 2019, 27,960 persons were recorded to have used the border.
By April 2020, the number of persons using the border dropped to 1,620 and in June 2020, the number dropped further to 919 persons.

Pre-Covid-19, around 100-150 trucks were cleared through the same border post each day. The number has now dropped to an average of 30-50 trucks per day.

The Taveta-Holili One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) cleared about 200 trucks per day pre-Covid, a number that has now dropped to around 40 trucks per day.

“There is an urgent need for the re-opening of border posts which are currently not allowing movement of persons. This will also see a resumption of the existing Ujirani Mwema markets situated in both Kenya and Tanzania and turn reboot cross-border trade,” said Dr Mathuki.

Kenyan imports from Tanzania, (March 2019 to August 2019) stood at Sh16.35 billion while in March 2020 to August 2020, it stood at Sh11.13 Billion, a decrease of Sh5.2 Billion. Kenyan exports to Tanzania (March 2019 to August 2019) totalled Sh16.49 Billion while in March 2020 to August 2020, exports stood at Sh14.68 Billion, a decline of Sh 1.8 Billion.
According to EABC survey report ‘Impact of Covid-19 on Business and Investments in the EAC and Proposed Recovery Measures for the EAC Economies,’56 per cent of businesses have been affected by cross border restrictions since the pandemic hit the EAC bloc.

EABC noted that instances of relay truck driving caused by delays in getting Covid-19 test results are increasing the cost of doing business. Dr Mathuki also urged Kenya and Tanzania to fast-track the operationalization of the One-Stop Border Post at Lunga Lunga -Horohoro border.

“The OSBP will expedite the turnaround time of clearance of cargo and persons,” Dr. Mathuki said.

Kenyan key imports from Tanzania using the borders include timber, cereals, and edible vegetables while Tanzanian imports from Kenya include soap, machinery, and mechanical appliances, iron, and steel, and pharmaceutical products. EABC also reiterated its position on the need for the EAC Partner States to put an end to testing of Covid-19 at border points, to avoid delays in truck and cargo clearance.