- EAC COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate will eliminate the current high transaction costs of COVID-19 testing
- Removal of visa fees for Uganda and Kenya by South Sudan is set to ease the free movement of persons
- Buy East African, build East Africa campaign central in driving the economic recovery agenda for the EAC
The East African Community (EAC) has been urged to develop a common COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate by December to hasten the economic recovery of the EAC bloc.
This is one of the resolutions of the Round Table Meeting for Chief Executive Officers of apex national private sector associations convened by the East African Business Council, in Nairobi, Kenya.
John Bosco Kalisa, EABC CEO said the EAC COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate will enable mutual recognition and eliminates the current high transaction costs of COVID-19 testing and will boost intra-EAC trade, travel and tourism.
He also commended the high-level bilateral engagements by EAC Heads of State for resolving Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs). The Kenya-Tanzania Bilateral Engagement has resolved 72 NTBs. He further called for the amendment of the NTBs Act to include sanctions and clear timelines to resolve NTBs.
Speaking in the same event, Carole Kariuki, CEO of KEPSA said, “KEPSA rolled out COVID-19 vaccination drive for the private sector and today we agreed to undertake similar drives across all EAC Partner States.”
She also called for closer private sector collaboration in marketing and boosting the competitiveness of made-in-East African products to the larger African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) market.
At the same time, the Chief Guest, EABC Chairman Nick Nesbitt, said the EAC bloc is the most integrated regional economic community in Africa and elaborated the vaccine roll-out strategy for the region.
Other recommendations that were called for include forming a deeper public-private dialogue at the country and regional level to ensure policies are business-centred, as well as the push for the Buy East African Build East Africa campaigns to boost intra-EAC trade.
Mary Ngechu, EABC Board Director called for consolidation and aggregation of SMEs to boost product volumes and leverage on the regional and continental value chains.
Others include Juma Charles said South Sudan Chambers of Commerce Industries and Agriculture is engaging the respective ministry of foreign affairs to implement the commitments under the EAC Customs Union Protocol.
He elaborated that the removal of visa fees for Uganda and Kenya by South Sudan is set to ease the free movement of persons.
The Round Table Meeting agreed to hold quarterly engagements to address new & chronic trade issues and share best practices and appreciated the goodwill from the EAC Secretary-General to steer private sector-led integration via the EAC-EABC Technical Working Group and urged EAC Partner States to amend article 24 of the Customs Union protocol to operationalize the EAC Trade Remedies Committees tasked to resolve trade disputes
The calls come days after Kalisa said the private sector and buy East African, build East Africa campaign is central in driving the economic recovery agenda for the EAC bloc amid COVID-19.
The Director of Trade at the EAC Secretariat, Alhajj Rashid Kibowa also said the EAC Post COVID-19 economic recovery plan is under country consultation.
He further said the pandemic impacted trade performance noting that EAC import declined to 3.56 billion in 2020 from 3.95 billion in 2019.
Kibowa stated that Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in the EAC dropped by 43% to USD. 4.9 billion in 2020 and jobs declined by 2%, wiping out the gains made in previous year. In 2019 EAC bloc recorded USD. 8.66 billion FDI a 375% rise from 2018.
He stated that the EAC Secretariat embarked on digitalization & harmonization of COVID-19 procedures to ease movement of cargo and holds regular consultations with the Ministries of Health, Finance and Trade to monitor and gauge the social and economic impact of COVID-19 in order for the EAC bloc to move in unison.
He added that the EAC Post COVID-19 economic recovery plan sets out key strategies namely attracting investment in ICT manufacturing & health and incentives for promotion of regional value chains.
Others include diaspora investments, innovation centres and elimination of Non-Tariff barriers.
SMEs promotion and access to new Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) markets are some of the other strategies that have been outlined.