Kenya, Uganda need dialogue on trade crisis says EABC

Saturday January 08 2022
maize pic

Trucks loaded with maize from Tanzania parked at the Namanga border in this picture take in March 06 2021 . Photo| Filbert Rweyemamu

By Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. Business leaders in East Africa have called for an immediate end to the escalating trade stalemate between Kenya and Uganda.
They want the two neighbouring countries to sit together and resolve all outstanding issues amicably instead of persistent spats.
“Retaliation is not and should not be the ultimate solution,” said the East African Business Council (EABC), an apex body of private sector associations based in Arusha. Dialogue, it insisted, should be an option because it was in line with the spirit of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community (EAC).
A dispatch from the regional business body did not mention the on-going saga in which hundreds of lorries have been stranded at the Kenya/Uganda border. Drivers from Kenya, in particular, have complained that they could not get entry into Uganda over Covid-19 vaccination charges and cumbersome clearance procedures.
The statement, however, cited the persistent non-tariff barriers (NTBs) as among the factors which have negatively impacted cross border trade between the two countries. “Bilateral dialogue to eliminate all the outstanding NTBs between Kenya and Uganda will boost trade”, added the dispatch to The Citizen. Instead of escalating spats from each side, the two countries should hold a bilateral dialogue “to avoid a trade stalemate and retaliation”.
Sustained stalemate, EABC asserted, would seriously impact intra-EAC trade which, it says, was currently low at approximately 15 percent.
Trade figures within the six nation bloc were declining because of denial of preferential market access to EAC originating products.
New trade measures on retaliation will reduce trade further, affect employment, market access, economies of scale especially for the region’s industrial sector.
Persistent NTBs have not only led to increased transaction time and cost of doing business across borders but also set back the competitiveness of products originating from the EAC bloc.
EABC, which has an observer status to the EAC, has identified two key factors which are critical in resolving persistent and mushrooming NTBs.
One of them is the absence of an effective EAC traded dispute settlement mechanism through the once proposed EAC Trade Remedies Committee.
The other is a slow pace of resolution of the identified trade barriers by the EAC Regional Monitoring Committee (RMC).
“This is evident as per the recent Sectoral Council of Trade,Industry, Finance and Investment (SCTIF) meeting”, the business body pointed out.