NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 11 – The East African Business Council (EABC) is urging for lowering and harmonization of COVID-19 related charges in the East African Community, in a bid to ease the cost of doing business and boost intra-EAC trade.
According to the Council’s CEO Dr. Peter Mathuku, the move will support businesses to be more resilient and rebound amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, Covid-19 tests are priced differently in each Partner State EAC Partner States, while containment measures are varied. For instance; Tanzania and Burundi are now charging a standard rate of $100 for both nationals and foreigners while the other Partner States’ charges vary.
“The EAC Secretariat should fast track regional coordination and harmonization of measures on COVID-19 for economic resilience and growth of the EAC bloc,” said Mathuki.
Mathuki also called for the establishment of a common quarantine period in the region and fast-tracking of the waiting time for Covid-19 test results.
The lack of harmonization of Covid-19 testing rates in accredited laboratories and uncoordinated waiting time for the test results is disrupting cross-border trade.
COVID-19 related Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) continue to hinder cross-border trade due to different measures on COVID-19 in the region.
As of October 2020, the World Bank predicted growth in Sub-Saharan Africa to fall to -3.3 percent in 2020, driven by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Different preventive and restrictive measures undertaken by EAC Partner States to control the spread of COVID-19 have significantly slowed down trade, movement of persons and integration. The trickle-down effects of these measures have also been felt across affiliated industries and the rest of the economy.
Dr. Mathuki noted that reduction and harmonization of COVID-19 related NTBs will also enable businesses to tap into the opportunities availed by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“AfCFTA prioritizes addressing challenges in trade policy, productive capacity, hard and soft infrastructure, trade information and market integration which are critical for doing business in the continent,” he said.