Regional business umbrella body has called for harmonization of COVID-19 charges to boost intra EAC trade.
The East African Business Council (EABC) has said that in a bid to ease the cost of doing business and boost intra-EAC trade emerging costs such as the COVID-19 related charges in the East African Community should be standardized. This is set to support businesses to be more resilient and rebound amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
This comes days after Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta called on African leaders to harmonise COVID-19 protocols. According to the president, harmonising the protocols will determine whether the African Union (AU) meetings will be virtual or physical given the challenges occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, COVID-19 tests are priced differently in each Partner State, while containment measures are varied. For instance, Tanzania and Burundi are now charging a standard rate of $100 for both nationals and foreigners while the other Partner States’ charges vary.
“The EAC Secretariat should fast–track regional coordination and harmonization of measures on COVID-19 for economic resilience and growth of the EAC bloc,” said Dr. Mathuki, CEO, EABC. He also called for the establishment of a common quarantine period in the region and fast-tracking of the waiting time for COVID-19 test results.
The lack of harmonization of COVID-19 testing rates in accredited laboratories and uncoordinated waiting time for test results is disrupting cross-border trade. COVID-19 related Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) continue to hinder cross-border trade due to different measures on COVID-19 in the region. Dr. Mathuki noted that reduction and harmonization of COVID-19 related NTBs will also enable businesses to tap into the opportunities availed by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“AfCFTA prioritizes addressing challenges in trade policy, productive capacity, hard and soft infrastructure, trade information and market integration which are critical for doing business in the continent,” he said.
Different preventive and restrictive measures undertaken by EAC Partner States to control the spread of COVID-19 have significantly slowed down trade, movement of persons and integration. The trickle-down effects of these measures have also been felt across affiliated industries and the rest of the economy.
About East African Business Council: The EABC is the regional apex body of private sector associations and corporates from the six East African countries. It was established in 1997 to foster the interests of the private sector in the integration process of the East African Community. EABC’s vision is a borderless East Africa for business and investment. The primary mission is to promote sustainable private sector driven in the EAC.