8 December 2012

East Africa: Tackle Non Tariff Barriers Head-On

News of notable development in the removal of non trade barriers within the East African Community trading bloc is welcome especially at a time when bickering, accusations and counter-accusations by trade representatives of some of the partner states had dominated various forums and the media on this sensitive bread and butter issue.

Instances of these achievements include the key decision to weigh transit vehicles twice from the Port of entry and Port of exit for Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi as well as the significant reduction of roadblocks from 30 to 15.

Often, non-tariff barriers have had drawbacks on the cost and pricing of the goods which make products from the region uncompetitive. The effect of this naturally weighs down the export and import market.

But while the East African Community Secretariat has shown its commitment to address this issue, there remain some aspects that are not yet fully dealt with particularly the lack of full devotion by individual states to eliminate the remaining barriers.

While it is heartening that the member states have at times arrived at bilateral agreements to limit non-tariff barriers, there is need for this to spread multilaterally. The bilateral deal between Rwanda and Tanzania in late October to remove some non tariff barriers to ensure flawless movement of goods between Rwanda and the Indian Ocean port of Dar-es-Salaam serves as a good case in point.

Yet even with the already registered progress, this is still not adequate. If we are serious in fulfilling our dream of a prosperous East African Community, these barriers will have to come down to zero.

All the EAC partner states should therefore singularly agree to promote intra-East African trade and free trade, too, as a way of alleviating poverty and raising living standards of people in the region.

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