The East African Community Council of Ministers of Trade has urged member states to harmonise the Covid-19 charges, validity and mutual recognition of the certificates to facilitate smooth movement of goods and people in the region.
The EAC regional Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (SCTIFI) noted with concern the non-recognition of Covid-19 certificates by partner states, the different charges for Covid-19 testing and varying validity certificates are affecting the movement of goods in the region.
The Sectoral Council met on May 31 in Arusha under the chairmanship of Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Industrialisation, Trade and Enterprise Development Betty Maina.
The SCTIFI further observed that notification procedures were not being followed, a situation that essentially constitutes another non-tariff barrier (NTB) to trade in the region.
EAC member states launched digital Covid-19 certificates last August to help in the quick clearance of goods at the border points.
The Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking System was meant to ease the movement of goods at the borders by allowing sharing of Covid-19 test results of truck drivers electronically, eliminating the need for physical checks, which has been blamed for causing delays in clearance.
However, a lack of harmonisation of these certificates and procedures has slowed down the gains that would have come with its implementation.
The council also directed South Sudan and Uganda to implement the Nimule-Elegu One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) by deploying all relevant officials at these posts.
The sectoral council had been informed that the border post was completed and handed over to South Sudan and was pending full implementation by having all relevant officials from border agencies, including from Uganda operating from the OSBP.
The SCTIFI further directed partner states to use regional mechanisms or structures such as the EAC Standards Committee and SCTIFI itself to resolve disputes among themselves as opposed to taking unilateral interventions.
The sectoral council directed member countries to comply with the transparency principles of World Trade Organisation TBT/SPS Agreements, the EAC Customs Union Protocol and EAC Standardisation, Quality Assurance, Metrology and Testing Act 2006 on notification of any measure with the potential to disrupt trade in the region.
The council noted that members had been taking actions that have restricted trade within their respective markets and guided that all partner states comply with the notification obligations in EAC legal instruments.
The meeting directed South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya to expedite the removal of visa fees among themselves.
The ministers further directed South Sudan to communicate the administrative note for waiver of the visa fees for Burundi and Rwanda by June 30, 2021.