SMEs digest: Hope for businesses as new EA $20m facility is created

Tuesday February 23 2021

Trucks at of the regional border crossing points in East Africa. PHOTO|FILE

By Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that are engaged in cross-border trading could soon find the going good, thanks to a new $20 million facility.

TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) has created a $20 million facility to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the regional trade.

The Safe Trade Emergency Facility (STEF) will assist governments undertake critical measures along the transport and trade routes.

According to the East African Business Council (EABC) the facility has been initiated due to trade decline and export losses as a result of the pandemic.

STEF will support governments to undertake critical measures “to ensure trade continues safely while protecting livelihoods”.

TMEA is an organization funded by a range of development agencies to boost the East African Community (EAC) economies through trade.


The outbreak of Covid-19 early last year has seen the trade flow in the region being disrupted, leading to job losses and export declines.

EABC chief executive officer Peter Mathuki said the $20 million facility would focus on trade data tracking in manufacturing, transport and logistics.

“Transport and trade routes are believed to be major infection conduits for novel coronavirus and other diseases,” he said.

He added that implementation of SETF will capitalize into the emerging opportunities that will protect the health of traders and transport operators.

Its components include having centralized data collection on trade flows and addressing arising challenges to regional trade.

EABC, which is a regional apex body of private sector associations, says economic impact due to the pandemic has been aggravated by limited trade data.

It cited the most affected sectors as tourism, transport and logistics, agriculture and manufacturing.

‘To enhance public and private dialogue in these sectors, EABC will support TradeMark East Africa in undertaking trade data tracking”, he explained.

These, according to Mr Mathuki, will help in developing advocacy position “that will guide recovery and sustainability for the respective industry players in the region.

Prior to project implementation, the volumes and value of trade data in the EAC region will have to be collected from March 2020 to June this year.