THE East African Business Council (EABC) is calling on the East African Community (EAC) partner states to put an end to testing of Covid-19 at border points to decongest them and increase intra-EAC trade.
This follows EABC's intensive three-day visit at several One-Stop Border Posts (OSBP) aimed at seeking sustainable solutions to reduce recurring trucks snarl-ups that have in the last one month disrupted cross border trade and led to loss and damage of goods worth millions of shillings.
EABC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Executive Director, Dr Peter Mathuki noted that as situation returns to normal, business should be allowed to thrive across all borders of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
Some countries have been going against agreements that had been arrived at several months ago by heads of state and ministers responsible for health, transport and foreign affairs, leading to truck drivers being stranded at some border posts.
Some countries opted for lockdown amid the pandemic, but their people are no better than the ones who did not opt for it, and life is going on as usual.
Tanzania opted for the latter under directives and guidance of President John Magufuli, and it has since paid off handsomely.
Dr Mathuki divulged that various border points are facing a constant shortage of Covid-19 reagents and testing kits.
In addition, distressed truck drivers awaiting and collecting their Covid- 19 results are neither observing social distancing nor putting on protective masks.
The blockages are also disrupting the flow of goods, thus increasing operational costs for traders, causing wastage of volumes of perishable goods and fuelling corruption cases.
"Testing Covid-19 at border points should come to a stop to ease congestion of trucks which hinders cross-border trade and reduces trade volumes, just when the region is struggling to recover from the pandemic," said Dr Mathuki.
The move to stop testing exercises at border posts will strengthen cross-border trade, making it resilient in the face of future shocks and boost the competitiveness of East African goods in the continental and global markets.
According to a report released by EABC in September, 2020, titled, 'Impact of Covid-19 on Business and Investments in the EAC and Proposed Recovery Measures for the EAC Economies,' 56 per cent of businesses have been affected by cross border restrictions since the pandemic hit the EAC bloc.
44 per cent of businesses are still struggling to source raw materials to keep their businesses afloat.
EABC is also calling for small-scale cross-border traders especially women, to be allowed to trade with adherence to Standard Operating Procedures put in place by the Ministries of Health.
Accompanied the Ministry of EAC Affairs and Regional Development of Kenya and various private sector stakeholders during the border visits, the EABC called for mutual recognition of Covid- 19 certificates among EAC partner states and deployment of more personnel from government agencies to facilitate trade.