East African Community (EAC) partner states have adopted a Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System that will be hosted at the bloc's headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
The system will share the truck driver's information leveraging on that which is already managed and operated by Revenue Authorities in the region, and the existing health information systems in the six EAC countries.
An official explained that the development of a regional Covid-19 surveillance system for trucks and their crew is another tool to help mitigate the disruption of domestic, regional and global supply chain systems serving the region.
On Monday, June 1, Daniel Murenzi, the Principal Information Technology Officer at the EAC headquarters, took The New Times through "the technical functionalities of the system" which allows users to share information across borders in a transparent manner.
Murenzi said: "The system will work in all EAC Partner States. It will be interlinked to EAC Ministries of Health and accredited laboratories for the accurate information.
"The system will bring on board the truck owners or companies so that information can be shared across. In case a truck driver is tested positive in another country the system will notify the Ministry of Health of the driver's originating country."
The EAC is collaborating with Trademark East Africa in the development, implementation and operation of the surveillance system.
Explaining what they hope will be achieved, Patience Mutesi, TMEA country director, noted that lately, the new coronavirus has been spreading between countries largely through land borders which economies rely on for key supplies, thereby threatening trade.
"We have also seen stigmatization of drivers across the region, and long queues of trucks at borders due to challenges in regulations that countries have imposed to control the spread of the virus," she said.
This development is a positive step towards a regional response to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, she noted.
"The system will help automate linkages at key nodes thus reducing the need for screening at every border. Implementing the drivers' tracking system will make ports, borders and critical supply chains safe for trade.
This will also ensure timely access to critically required medicines, medical and protective equipment and most importantly ensure food security during this crisis," Mutesi said.
Truck drivers will need to upload the App on their phones.
Abdul Ndarubogoye, Chairperson of Rwanda Transporters Association (ATAR), they have no problem with the new system because it comes to help solve a real problem.
He said: "It is only until we start using it and, maybe, experience any challenges that we can talk about them and request for help."
How the system will work
According to Murenzi, prior to commencement of any trip, all truck drivers and crews will undertake mandatory Covid-19 testing in the designated accredited clinic or laboratory of each EAC partner state.
All authorized and accredited testing and screening facilities in each country will be uploaded into the platform and any testing or health and safety events they conduct relating to a driver or crew preparing for transit movement will be uploaded in real time on the App and accessed only by authorized authorities.
After testing the truck drivers or crews an electronic medical attestation form or certificate will be generated with barcode on for authentication and validation. This will be shared across in accordance with the trip or corridor the track drivers are using.
The electronic generated medical certificate that will be validated for 14 days will be accessed electronically at the designated sites of screening, across the partner states where the driver or crew will use during transit movement.
Each trucking company will have an account with all the details of their fleet and authorized personnel uploaded into the platform. Each trucking company or owner will ensure that each driver and crew in each vehicle have an activated App downloaded into the mobile phone (android-based).
"Before the beginning of a journey each trucking company or owner will create the journey itinerary of their driver and truck that will be activated in the mobile app that the driver has," Murenzi said.
"Once the journey begins the application will connect to the Command Monitoring Centers and signal relaying will continue throughout the journey as is the current practice of tracking customs sealed cargo in transit."
Throughout the entire journey, any health and safety event conducted will be updated in the App by respective health officials and "this information made available to officials in the neighboring countries of interest on real time."
Designated stop locations will be geofenced in the App and Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System platform. Any prolonged stop outside these locations will issue an alert or warning to the authorities and truck owners of the violation.
Through the Web App, each truck crew member will be issued a digital Covid-19 health certificate that is based on agreed standards and protocols by the health official of partner States.
"The certificate will be dynamic; avoiding the loopholes of manual and static certificates that may be forged or not represent the actual state of the driver during and after transits," Murenzi said.
He noted that if deemed necessary health, immigration, customs and security officials at designated areas such as border crossings, will be enabled to use mobile devices to verify the identity, status and conduct of the driver while in transit to determine which standard operating procedures will be applicable at the designated point.
Drivers or crews returning will also be tested, and the results shared electronically and accessed by authorized authorities across the border.
In light of the new development, Murenzi said, Partner States need to, among other things, designate accredited facilities (clinic or laboratory or hospital) where truck drivers and crew will go for to Covid-19 screening.
Countries are also required to provide designated areas where truck drivers can spend the night and areas for refreshments.