Tanzanian authorities are taking welcome steps to remove trade barriers - yet more can be done, as these two ITC business surveys in Tanzania explain.
More than a third (36%) of Tanzanian companies have fully or partially resolved trade obstacles in the last six years, according to the International Trade Centre report, Invisible barriers to trade - United Republic of Tanzania: Business perspectives.
The report compares business surveys in this East African country in 2013-2014, and then again in 2019-2020. Companies say that better practices in public agencies are game-changers.
'Import permission from the (former) Tanzania Food and Drug Authority was very difficult to get. The application process took too long. The process can be done online now, making things simpler and faster. It no longer takes weeks to get feedback,' declares a company interviewed in the report.
Among the most important changes since the first survey: a pilot electronic single window to meet export requirements, better regional recognition of conformity assessments, and fewer or lower fees charged by different agencies.
Despite the good news, persist obstacles remain. The latest survey found that 72% of firms involved in cross-border trade - especially agricultural exporters - still have trouble with domestic issues such as finding suitable export packaging materials and meeting international buyers' quality standards.
The survey also revealed that traders still struggle with delays, high fees and charges, as well as limited or deficient facilities at home - so-called procedural obstacles that stem from non-tariff measures.
The government holds the key to solving most of these trade obstacles. Almost half of the non-tariff measures that companies consider challenging today are linked to Tanzanian regulations and procedures on exports.
The most troublesome are requirements to obtain various permits, licences and certifications, because they involve considerable documentation, multiple administrative windows and waiting time at public agencies.
What is the way forward?
The report recommends that the government's top priority should be an electronic single window system, a paperless one-stop service - now in the pilot stage - that connects all agencies involved in cross-border trade. 'Full implementation of this programme could eliminate most of the domestic procedural hurdles that exporters face,' the report says.
The country needs better, internationally accredited quality facilities and laboratories. It needs more domestic production of packaging materials, combined with packaging information and training for exporters. The report also urges policymakers to harmonize national and regional standards with international ones, making it easier for exporters to comply with different standards and save them time and money.
Finally, the report praises government plans to adopt a national quality policy that helps traders fulfil technical requirements and conformity assessments. Such a policy 'would provide guidance on which quality infrastructure should be prioritized, what institutional arrangements are needed to improve the quality of Tanzanian products, and how to standardize national standards with international practices'.
This second ITC report in Tanzania contacted 613 companies, out of which 49 also struggled with these measures in 2013-2014. It asked whether past challenges had been resolved and if they faced any new non-tariff measure difficulties. This is the first time the ITC non-tariff measures programme conducts a follow-up survey in the same country.
This report is part of the EU-East African Community Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP). The programme aims to contribute to economic development in the EAC through boosting trade and regional integration.