31 December 2013

East Africa: Efforts to Fight Trade Barriers in EAC 'Paying Off'

Efforts aimed at fighting non-tariff barriers (NTBs) in the region have started yielding positive results.

According to Fulgence Sebahizi, the national co-ordinator of the East African Civil Society Forum (EACSOF), close to 30 cases were registered at Gatuna border in the last three months since a coalition calling for the elimination of trade barriers along the northern and central corridors was launched.

He is optimistic that the new initiative will help ease trade and boost investment across the region. Sebahizi pointed out that efforts to eradicate trade restrictions should double, saying NTBs could hurt regional integration process if they are not eliminated.

He said EACSOF, as a national monitoring committee, will help the NTBs Elimination Coalition to track the remaining trade barriers to hasten their removal.

Sebahizi was last week speaking at a conference on NTBS in Kigali.

Niki Frencken, the NTBs Elimination Coalition regional co-ordinator, said trade barriers are affecting the development of EAC economies, noting that at times traders are charged illegal fees. "Removing NTBs is a process but together we can help eliminate them," she said.

The Katuna Women Traders Association representative, Jane Bayera, said regional business communities also face challenges of poor infrastructure and corrupt border officials.

The conference attracted stakeholders from the Private Sector Federation, the East African Civil Society Forum and other NGOs that seek the eradication of NTBs across the EAC region.

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