Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda recently agreed to make trade among themselves and with other countries cheaper, faster and simpler. In a meeting in Nairobi, representatives of the countries said they would implement trade facilitation reforms including reducing ‘non-tariff barriers’ like burdensome and incompatible product regulations.
The countries are members of the East African Community customs union and common market (EAC). The ministerial meeting took place in parallel with the first UNCTAD Africa eCommerce Week from December 10 to 14, according to an UNCTAD statement.
The EAC move comes after most African countries signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTFA) in March 2018. The AfCFTA envisages establishing an Africa free trade area by building on regional blocs such as the EAC where trading nations already work together. The EAC declaration also aligns with the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, which entered into force in February 2017.
In the declaration, EAC countries committed to supporting National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs) as the main vehicle for coordinating the implementation of the trade facilitation measures at the national level.
Intra-EAC trade, while low compared to regions outside Africa, is the highest among regional economic communities in Africa at 19.35 per cent of exports.
UNCTAD and TMEA, a non-profit organization established in 2010 to support the growth of regional and international trade in East Africa, also renewed their cooperation agreement for 2019–2021. They decided to continue to work on trade facilitation, trade portals, enquiry points, trade and gender issues, and to explore working in other fields such as transport.