Ministers pledge to remove trade barriers

Published on 06/02/2009

By James Anyanzwa

East African Community (EAC) Council of ministers has set up a monitoring mechanism to deal with non-tariff trade barriers (NTBs) that have ruined investor confidence.

Reacting to a drop in the region’s business climate index, which fell to 44 points last year compared with a respectable 51 points in 2007, they said the barriers coupled with the poor state of infrastructure have negated objectives of enhancing competitiveness in the region.

Kenya’s EAC minister, Jeffa Kingi, said corruption, delays in issuance of work permits and time losses at weighbridges, roadblocks and customs have eroded the business environment.

“This brings in the question of how to address these barriers… in this regard the council of ministers has been focusing its attention on the reported business hindrances impeding intra-EAC trade,” said Kingi.

He said the NTBs monitoring mechanism would be implemented through National Monitoring Committees.

He said the committees would be charged with the mandate of implementing time-bound programmes for the elimination any barriers.

Kingi said the Government was working on strengthening capacity of the Ministry of EAC through a rapid response system to handle cases of Non-Trade Barriers.

Economic union

Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi make up the East African Community (EAC), an economic union with the ultimate goal of turning itself into a political federation.

He said, in collaboration with the EAC secretariat, the Government plans to select priority areas for intervention. The minister was speaking during the launch of the East African Business Council Business Climate Index 2008 in Nairobi yesterday.

The survey revealed a deteriorating business environment in the region with a massive Sh774 million of revenues lost in bribes paid to police and customs officials every year.

The EAC also loses a combined total of 172,236 days each year to delays at weighbridges, roadblocks and customs. Kingi, however, said elimination of these barriers to trade couldn’t be realised without the involvement of the business community.

“Positive achievements will be realised under a platform of consultations between our Government and with the business community,” he said.

Majority of business leaders singled out access to affordable and reliable telecommunications as key to business growth, besides availability of water and security.

Other vital factors include guaranteed transport and energy.

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