he East African Community (EAC) secretariat has announced the launch of the Regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking System (RECDTS) in various border posts across the region in what is touted as a big game charger in improving truck turnaround and reducing corridors’ transit costs.
RECDTS will be launched at border points of Malaba, Rusumo, and Kobero on 7 August 2020. Malaba border is the second busiest border crossing in Africa and serves a number of land-locked countries that include Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Nothern Zambia, DR Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan.
Uganda is the biggest transit market for Mombasa port, with about 30 percent of Mombasa port’s total cargo volume going to the country. The port is today handling 34 million metric tonnes of cargo every year.
About 95 per cent of Rwanda’s imports pass through the Rusumo border, ferried from Dar es Salaam port. According to official statistics, some 270 heavy trucks passed through the Rusumo border every day, prior to Covid 19.
The launch at Mutukula will take place on 14 August 2020, EAC announced in a tweet yesterday. In Namanga, the launch will take place on 21 August 2020. About 418 vehicles a day pass through the Mutukula border point, with trucks taking over a day on average to process through customs from Tanzania to Uganda prior to Covid 19.
Kenya and Tanzania in early June agreed to reopen their borders after a diplomatic tiff and a tense week that was marked by a simmering trade dispute occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic. Travel guidelines and restrictions rekindled a festering trade war that had seen both countries impose sanctions on each other and ban trade in certain goods.
Government officials from both countries, who met in Namanga in early June, resolved to facilitate a seamless cross-border movement of goods and end the standoff.
The EAC secretariat has been piloting the system since last month. This followed a joint ministerial meeting of the Ministers responsible for Health, Trade and EAC Affairs held on 25th March of 2020 and in line with a directive by the Sectoral Council on Trade, Finance and Investment held on 3rd June this year to discuss the subject.
This initiative has received support from Trademark East Africa (TMEA) in partnership with the East African Community (EAC). Other key private sector players such as the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), the apex body of the Customs Clearing and Freight Forwarding industry in East Africa have been involved in the mobilization of private sector logistics associations to participate in the review of the RECDTS system concept. The review meetings, which were largely held online provided an opportunity for the private sector to share their recommendations with the developers of the system and ensure it addresses various concerns raised by its members and the industry at large.
The system will ride 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 now become necessary in the wake of Covid 19 pandemic.
Trucking companies will be required to get accredited on the system by registering drivers and crew members. Drivers will be required to have smart phones with reliable internet connection.
They will also be required to have their phones on throughout the journey, keeping in place designated routes and comply when needed to stop at designated stop points. The system has programmed these points.
The Ministry of Health has an account for relaying test results and another for validating COVID-19 free certificates before allowing the drivers to proceed. The protocol requires a driver to be tested 48 hours before the start of the journey by an accredited facility in any country as long as the facility is configured in the system.
Once the testing has been done, electronic certificates will be issued in form of a QR code for future scanning and validation by the health officials. No certificates will be issued for positive results and in the event of such cases, the country’s health protocols will apply.
By clicking to start the journey, the truck driver’s mobile phone will become a tracking gadget and will be visible to command centers till the end of the journey. The command centers will share information in real time. Alignment of the consignment to the truck will be done by East African Revenue Authorities (EARAs).
Health officials in designated points will test, validate certificates and update the information on the system.
At border points, which have experienced major gridlocks in the recent past, it will be a matter of confirmation by authorities before allowing entry or exit.
“Once tested, those who test negative will be issued with a digital COVID-19 free certificate and will be allowed to proceed with the journey while those who turn positive will not be issued with a digital certificate to proceed. The trucking company in question will have to assign the job to another driver with negative results. The certificates will have unique ID with validity dates with tests remaining confidential,” a stakeholder’s brief recently said.
Relief drivers will then log into the system, accept jobs and continue with their journey. Validation of certificates will be done by health authorities by scanning the QR codes and as per the social distance guidelines. The officers will update the info into the system at each stop point.