By Abdi Hussein
The East Africa Community (EAC) Secretary General Peter Mathuki has called for harmonizing business standards across the region to boost intra trade between partner states.
He reiterated member states commitment to seamless bilateral trade when he led a high powered delegation from Kenya and Tanzania in an impromptu visit at the Namanga at One Stop Border Post.
Mathuki was appointed to head the Arusha based secretariat last month and the visit was among his first assignments.
He said some Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) at the border entry point were slowing business flow and called for a harmonized standard of business between Kenya and Tanzania especially on taxes.
He added that the EAC secretariat will provide a platform for cross border trade through trade by facilitating agencies like the East African Business Council and discuss sustainable solutions to boost bilateral and regional trade.
“We are rooting for the harmonization of standards for the most traded goods in the region,” said Mathuki
He said intra trade within EAC stands at 15 percent currently but projected a triple digit growth in the next five years to 45 percent because of high volume of trade.
He said the lukewarm relationship between neighboring countries because of maize importation ban has reduced imports and exports to Kenya and vice versa.
“Business volumes between Kenya and Tanzania have reduced significantly in the last one year due to the Covid 19 pandemic and other administrative crisis,” he added, and called for a holistic approach to tackle the challenges.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have borne the brunt of strained relationships in the past resulting in illegal goods crossing via clandestine routes.
The EAC is pushing for free movement of goods to reduce the cost of doing business with hope that SMEs will either import or export goods through the right channels.
” We must come up with policies to protect and boost their trade,” said Mathuki.
Traders called for the harmonization of taxes and charges across the region, reduction of weigh bridge costs and punitive fines imposed across borders.
EAC Secretariat is set to avail a trade hotline providing cross-border traders with a platform to register their challenges and get prompt feedback, across all EAC border posts.
The secretariat is on facts finding mission in all border entries within East Africa.
Tanzania Ambassador to Kenya, who was part of the large entourage, John Stephen Simbachawene said the Tanzania Government will deepen relations through resolving trade barriers disrupting trade especially on cereals.
He encouraged cross border traders to seize the opportunity of good relationship brokered by President Kenyatta and his Tanzania counterpart Samia Suluhu recently.
Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Namanga Station Manager, Joseph Moywaywa said Kenya’s top exports to Tanzania included detergents, tiles, auto-motives and solar panels.
Tanzania’s top exports to Kenya were fresh vegetables, alcoholic drinks and fertilizer.
However alcohol drinks exports had reduced owing to the temporary closure of bars severally by the Kenyan government to curb Covid-19 spread.
The visit came three days after the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya visited Namanga and ordered the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) to stop registering maize already checked by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service(KPHIS) to avoid an unnecessary cross border crisis.
AFA had banned maize importation from Tanzania and Uganda on March 5, 2021 claiming it contained high levels of aflatoxin resulting in bilateral trade standoff between the two countries.