he East African Community Secretary General Hon. (Dr) Peter Mathuki together with Deputy Secretary Generals, Director General of Customs and Trade, and other Senior Officials of the EAC Secretariat held a consultative meeting with Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, Uganda’s 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for EAC Affairs to discuss the status of the EAC integration process.
The consultative meetings between the EAC Secretariat and the Partner States Ministries responsible for EAC Affairs and Trade are part of the innovative approaches by the EAC Secretariat to brief Partner States on a quarterly basis on the status of integration projects and programmes.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Mathuki told the Minister that the objective of the consultative meeting was to report on the achievements and challenges of activities undertaken in various sectors and share available opportunities as well as come up with strategies to strengthen regional integration.
“Hon Minister, we at the Secretariat thought it is important for Partner States to know the status of their Directives and implementation of various projects and programmes on a quarterly basis before our normal policy meetings,” said the Secretary General.
Highlighting some of the achievements during this period of COVID-19, Dr. Mathuki told the Minister that the Secretariat had successfully coordinated regional COVID-19 response through effective partnerships with international and local organizations.
“Some of the interventions made by the Secretariat include the establishment of the Regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking System (RECDTS), which facilitates free movement of people, goods and services in the region, as well as distribution of essential supplies in the region,” said Dr. Mathuki.
RECDTS is currently monitoring movement of truck drivers across the East Africa region in a move that has significantly reduced delays at the border crossing points. The App–which is available on the Google Play Store- is monitoring at least 90 percent of truck drivers across East Africa.
TMEA partnered with key agencies, including the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Association (FEAFFA), to develop the App to address serious delays at border posts.
The App was launched in September 2020 by the EAC Secretariat in partnership with TMEA and the European Union, which has been key in the fight against Covid-19, especially among cross border traders.
“Since we launched the App in September 2020, over 72,900 drivers have downloaded it. This represents over 90 percent of cross border trade drivers in the entire EAC,” Mr Alba Odhiambo said earlier this year, adding that whereas the current App was built in English, there are ongoing efforts to localise it in languages spoken widely in EAC such as French and Swahili, among others.
During the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic, truck drivers were super spreaders and because of their cross-border movements, they faced many challenges to move around the region since EAC had not adopted common protocols on how to deal with COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the roll-out, cross border truck drivers had been spending many days in long queues at border posts, which had disrupted both trade and movement of goods, services and people.
The RECDTS is part of TMEA’s $23m Safe Trade Emergency Facility that seeks to support governments in the region to undertake critical measures along the transport and trade routes.
Frank Matsaert, the TMEA chief executive officer, said because Covid-19 is going to be around for some time, it was important that the region focuses on long-term recovery measures to support trade.
The system enables digital verification of transit documents and travel authorization by law enforcement, customs and immigration at border crossings and other strategic locations along the transit corridors. It also facilitates intuitive analyses of data and surveillance of mobility related to cross-border movements for better management of the pandemic in relation to cross border mobile population segments.
This system is riding on the Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System (RECTS) platform for tracking cargo movement along the corridors, which previously lacked a component of tracking individuals, which has become necessary in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.