New application to address horrid trade barriers across East Africa
In what is being described as ground-breaking development the East African Community is rolling out a new mobile application to address Non-Tariff barriers stifling trade in the region.
The innovative app according to the Arusha-based EAC Secretariat is set to revolutionise the region’s trading landscape by streamlining the reporting, monitoring, and resolution of impediments traders face as they conduct business across borders.
Non-Tariff Barriers in East Africa cost the region over USD 20 Million annually and now the new application wants to mend this.
Known as the EAC NTBs APP, the application development was funded by the Netherlands through TradeMark Africa (TMA).
The EAC NTBs App, seamlessly blending SMS, email, and phone reporting methods, offers economic operators a one-stop solution for effectively reporting Non-Tariff Barriers to trade.
By streamlining the NTB reporting process, the App will aid traders and producers in tackling obstacles that impede their trade efficiency and competitiveness.
Additionally, it ensures transparency and quick resolution of issues by engaging technical and policy-level mechanisms, such as National Focal Points, the National Monitoring Committees (NMCs) and the Regional Monitoring Committee (RMC).
The EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Customs, Trade and Monetary Affairs, Annette Ssemuwemba said the EAC NTBs App marks a pivotal moment in creating a smooth trading environment across the EAC region.
“We are dedicated to eradicating the barriers that impede economic growth, and integration. This innovative solution serves as a powerful tool to empower traders, producers and economic operators offering them a unified platform to promptly address and resolve NTBs,” she added.
The Deputy Secretary General noted that the removal of NTBs was of extreme importance when it comes to fostering a more efficient and equitable trading environment.
Non-Tariff barriers occur in the form of procedural complexities, or administrative hurdles, hindering smooth flow of goods and services across borders in the process.
“At Trademark Africa, we believe that this revolutionary app is a testament to our commitment to providing strategic solutions in digital trade,” said the Director of Trade Policy, and Trade Facilitation, Benedict Musengele.
Non-Tariff barriers pose major problems for traders and producers, as they can reduce profits and limit market access, as they hinder trading effectively through discriminatory requirements for special licenses and permits, excessive paperwork, complicated customs procedures, and bureaucratic delays at borders.
A recent EAC Regional Meeting Committee (RMC) report (2023) estimated the direct costs of NTB’s at USD 16,703,970 and total trade impact at USD 94,918,000 decreasing trade by an average of 58 percent
However, since 2017, EAC has resolved 89.5 percent of the reported NTBs
In addition, there has been a relatively steady decrease in reported NTBs.
From 2021 to 2023, the number of reported NTBs complaints has remained stable, ranging between 8 and 11 cases annually with a significant improvement in the resolution of NTBs reported to an average of 88.3 days.
Between June 2022 and June 2023, a total of 16 NTBs complaints were reported in East Africa.
Out of these, 9 NTBs have been resolved while 7 complaints remained in progress.
Some 56.3 percent of NTB complaints were addressed and resolved within the given timeframe.
However, a notable portion of complaints, specifically (43.75 percent) were still in progress by the end of June 2023.
The EAC NTBs App allows the users to report the complaints in one of the three (3) EAC official languages; English, Swahili and French and can be downloaded from the Apple Store, Google’s Play Store, and other Android devices.