Shippers and freight forwarders are mulling over the creation of a regional stimulus-response kitty in the efforts to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that impacted 75 percent of the transport and logistics sector in East African Community (EAC) last year.
The stimulus package is part of the policy measures agreed upon following an industry study conducted by the Federation of East Africa Freight Forwarders Associations, Shippers Council of East Africa and Africa Economic Consortium.
William Ojonyo, leader of the Transport Technical Working Group on the study, said it is important that the bloc countries deal with the pandemic as a region and avoid the national approach.
"EAC should deal with the pandemic as a region because at the moment each country is approaching the Covid-19 from a national perspective," he said.
"We need a regional kitty for intervention, just the same way countries are setting aside funds to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 at national level."
The study conducted between March 2020 and March this year also proposed enhancement of IT infrastructure and automation as well as developing a framework for an integrated border management system.
"We identified the gaps and also gave proposals that would help mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and to boost trade," he said.
Some of the gaps identified are the lack of harmonized testing and Covid-19 certificate among EAC partner states as well as risk management planning and implementation strategies.
This comes at a time when transporters have raised concerns over delays at the Malaba and Busia borders occasioned by the recent Covid-19 containment measures put in place by Uganda.
Dennis Ombok, chief executive at Kenya Transporters Association said it takes longer for trucks to be cleared at the border, as Uganda, which is facing a third wave of the pandemic, has put in place strict measures to curb the spread.
"Truck drivers are now spending more time at the border point before they are cleared because of the numerous checks that have to be conducted by the Ugandan authorities," he said.
At the peak of the pandemic last June, truck drivers were stuck on the road for up to three weeks in a trip that takes four days following a lack of coordination between authorities in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda.
According to the findings of the study, in the central corridor, there was a notable decrease in the road transport rate from Dar es Salaam port to Rwanda (Kigali) from $3000 in January to $2700 in September 2020.
The Dar es Salaam port to Goma route in the Democratic Republic of Congo, however, experienced an increase – from $4,150 in May to $4,400 in September 2020.