East Africans, particularly Ugandans, must continue to speak up against trade barriers across the regional, Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde, has said, noting that it is important that the region fully opens up to trade to boost private sector development.
Speaking during the third Trade and Business Facilitation Symposium in Mombasa, Kenya early this week, Ms Kyambadde said that whereas Uganda was fully committed to the EAC integration, some countries have put in place barriers that limit the free movement of goods and services.
"In East Africa, logistics bottlenecks and inefficiencies are present at multiple stages in the supply chain including at loading, delivery and warehousing, packaging and waste management. Traffic congestion along key transport corridors, roadblocks and checkpoints push up time and costs of logistics which are passed onto the shippers and eventually borne by the consumers," she said.
The region continues to be weighed down by trade restrictions despite a number of commitments that seek to promote free movement of goods and services.
For instance, Tanzania continues to block a number of exports from Uganda and Kenya on claims that they violate rules of origin.
Tanzania has since last year blocked sugar exports from Uganda despite various high level engagements. Ms Kyambadde said regional governments must commit to putting in place measures that support trade within the region.
Regional traders, particularly from Uganda raised a number of concerns during the symposium, noting that there was lack of synergies within regional government ministries, departments and agencies, insufficient information on trade and services, undefined taxes, challenges around pre-export verification of conformity and absence of SMEs database.
Traders also pointed a number of challenges at Mombasa port, which among them included delay in cargo verification, overstay of cargo at container freight, under declaration and misdeclaration.