The East African Business Council (EABC) on Tuesday signed a US$ 3.2 million financing agreement with TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) for support in implementing a three-year programme focused on the simplification and harmonization of trade procedures in the region.
The partnership will support EABC's advocacy efforts of improving coordination, reporting and resolution of non- tariff barriers along the corridors; harmonization and adoption of East African standards or sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures; improve adoption and harmonization of Customs and Domestic Tax-related policies and trade facilitation in the region.
"We will coordinate, set the agenda and facilitate evidence-based research on public-private dialogues to reducing barriers to trade in the EAC region," said Peter Mathuki, the EABC Chief Executive Officer.
"We appreciate this partnership with TradeMark East Africa as it will support EABC to evaluate and monitor EAC policies to ensure they work for businesses at ground level and create momentum to accelerate the needed policy reforms for the business and investment climate in the EAC."
As noted, public-private dialogue plays a crucial role in addressing constraints, providing short-term stimulus with long-term impact and contributing to economic growth and poverty reduction.
The project will enhance advocacy and dialogue on transport and logistics, trade facilitation, customs and tax, standards, and NTBs in a bid to increase trade and investments in the region.
The programme also extends beyond the EAC and incorporates the COMESA, COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) and the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
"Inadequate trading regimes restrictions on the export of certain commodities, and lack of product diversification and the existence of NTBs continue to hamper intra-regional trade which is still low at 20 per cent compared to other RECs SADC 40 per cent," said Mathuki.
Barriers to trading across borders such as multiple product standard inspections, bureaucratic trade procedures delay business transactions and increase the cost of doing business. The time it takes to export is at an average of 76 hours, which is too high compared to 12.5 hours in OECD High-Income Economies, according to the World Bank Ease of Doing Business report (2018).
According to the report, the EAC is ranked 149 out of 190 in the ease of trading across borders.