Intra trade in the East African Community has decreased to about 40 per cent due to COVID-19 pandemic measures.
“Intra trade volumes in the EAC have dropped to between 30 and 40 per cent in the past three months. This can be attributed to the restrictions imposed on the movement of cargo trucks from the ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam to Malaba, Busia, Mutukula, Rusumo and other border points within the community.” Said Kenneth Bagamuhunda, EAC Director-General, and Customs & Trade.
In 2018, Rwanda imported products worth $134.5 million from Kenya and $2 million from Tanzania while Kenya imported products worth $175.9 million from Tanzania and exported $293.5 million according to the International Trade Centre.
Covid-19 pandemic has seen the significant drop in imports since February due to a range of border measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus.
All EAC partner states have closed their borders to travellers while only allowing freight to pass under tight measures. Also, all the six EAC member states had suspended international flights arrival though Tanzania and Burundi have reopened their airlines while Uganda and Kenya plan to reopen air travel this month.
Mr Bagamuhunda also explained that shipping has also been affected with the region no longer receiving imported goods. He added that the EAC should now consider manufacturing what it can or do without those goods.
Over the past three months, Mr Bagamuhunda said he had visited all border posts to inspect custom operations.
“The Rusumo border from Rwanda to Tanzania was also affected when Rwanda insisted on testing truck drivers for coronavirus thus affecting the smooth flow of goods to Kigali,” said Mr Bagamuhunda.
“Malaba and Namanga borders were in a crisis. But we have since installed a testing facility even though tests results take some time leading to long queues on both sides of Kenya-Uganda and Kenya-Tanzania borders.”
Dr Peter Mathuki, chief executive of East African Business Council said that COVID-19 has adversely affected EAC intra trade and cross border movement of goods.
He added that the reduction of volumes across borders is by 90 per cent. He also said that before the pandemic over 3,000 trucks used to be cleared at Namanga border while right now only 500 trucks or less are being cleared.