East Africa: EAC Member States Working to Dismantle Trade Barriers
By Jepkemei Gachomo
Nairobi-- East African Community (EAC) states are steadily laying the foundations for increased prosperity by dismantling bureaucratic and procedural barriers to economic integration, according to new report released by TradeMark East Africa.
The Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) first annual report, released recently, states that “much has been achieved towards unravelling bureaucratic and procedural snags to quicker, smoother and cheaper trade between the countries of East Africa.”
In the annual report, TMEA – the donor-funded organisation set up to help EAC states, institutions and the private sector derive maximum benefits from the current regional integration process, states that some of the efforts aimed at removing the trade barriers include the beginning of work on one-stop border posts and customs bonds.
“Examples include starting work on six ‘one-stop border posts’, setting up a system to remove customs bonds with a potential to save the region about a billion dollars and initiating six ‘single window’ sites where cross border documents can be processed at a single location,” said TMEA chief executive Frank Matsaert during the launch of the report.
The “one-stop” border posts have been established in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania.
Mr Matsaert said that TMEA’s “biggest headline result was undoubtedly in Burundi where it helped to establish a single revenue authority (Office Burundais des Recettes – OBR) that has resulted in a 37 per cent increase in Burundi’s national revenues.”
Burundi’s government has lauded the project, with the country’s President Pierre Nkurunziza reportedly noting that the country “hoped OBR would double state taxation revenue in its first year of operation, a feat which would be considered a tremendous achievement.”
The increased revenues realized from improved tax volumes, said President Nkurunziza, are to be utilized to provide resources for better education, health and security services and for improving the country’s hard infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, schools as well as its soft infrastructure such as laws and internet access.
Overall, TMEA – which has its headquarters in Nairobi with branches in Arusha, Bujumbura, Dar es Salaam, Juba, Kampala and Kigali - works with governments, regional institutions, private sector and civil society to reduce by 15 per cent the average time it takes to import or export a container from Mombasa or Dar es Salaam to Rwanda or Burundi.
The organization also hopes to slash by one third the amount of time it takes for a truck to cross selected borders, a key additional cost for the freight industry and consumers.
Its other projects include mapping the border crossing process from start to finish, conducting infrastructure audits and needs assessments and calculating how border crossings can be cheaper and quicker using information technology.