NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 16 – The government is seeking the support of small traders to address the numerous Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB) that hinder smooth and efficient trade within Kenya and in the larger East African market.
Trade Permanent Secretary Eng Abdulrazaq Ali on Tuesday urged small scale dealers to continually furnish the government with information on the bottlenecks they encounter at the border points to enable it intervene urgently and facilitate free trade.
“There are quite a number of these issues but the only way to deal with them is for you (traders) to report them to the focal point. The Ministry of Trade has such centres where you can report any Non-Tariff Barriers so that we are able to deal with it expeditiously,” he emphasised.
This declaration comes after numerous complaints of harassment of small Kenyan traders in neighbouring countries, which hinders them from exploiting the regional trading opportunities.
At a forum with a group of business people who mostly operate at border posts, the PS heard for instance how fish traders transporting goods to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are forced to open up their cargo for inspection in Uganda while in transit.
Others told how they are continually pushed to produce various documents in Tanzania even when their goods have met all the necessary requirements.
The traders were further irked by the fact that the same ill-treatment is not extended to their Ugandan and Tanzanian counterparts when they do business in Kenya as they are allowed to freely operate and leave the country at their own leisure.
These problems are experienced despite the fact that the East African Community is implementing a Common Market Protocol that is ideally supposed to guarantee among other freedom, the free movement of goods, capital, labour and people.
While assuring of the government’s attention to their problems, the PS blamed such incidences on the lack of adequate sensitisation on the provisions of the protocol among officials that are supposed to implement it.
He however expressed optimism that these problems would be adequately dealt with, especially after the formation of the National Cross Border Trade Association (NCBTA) which will act as a vehicle to engage the government.
“The whole idea of forming the association is to be able to have a single source of raising issues and we expect it to collect all the information that needs attention and forward it to the focal points,” added the PS while officially launching the body.
While underscoring the importance of the association, Eng Ali appealed for donor support in the formation of such organisations along Kenya’s borders with Sudan and Ethiopia which are used to smuggle goods.
The establishment of the organisation is part of the efforts by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) cross border reform program that seeks to remove the barriers faced by informal traders.
By implementing the Simplified Trade Regime, which applies to consignment of less than Sh46000 ($500), the regional bloc hopes to provide incentive to informal traders to use formal channels and thus reduce the need for them to smuggle goods across borders or to bribe border officials.
These initiatives have been informed by the importance of informal cross border traders who account for between 30- 60 percent of all inter-regional trade.
The member states recognise that this form of trade is an important source of employment and a source of livelihoods for thousands of households and thus the attention.