Clearance of the traffic backlog at Busia and Malaba borders has received a major boost following a decision of the third joint multi-sectoral virtual meeting of the ministers responsible for the EAC affairs, health, and transport convened by the EAC secretariat on 14th January 2022.
The meeting noted that the free covid-19 testing by Uganda was progressing well albeit at a rate unlikely to clear the backlog of cargo trucks at Kenya – Uganda borders. More than 5000 have been tested, majority at the Malaba border.
An update by Kenya’s transport minister informed the meeting that the truck queue was still long extending over 43km into Kenya.
The meeting noted that clearing the queue required a significant increase in testing capacity if the one-week target is to be achieved. The meeting further noted that the rate at which trucks are joining the queue is faster than the rate at which trucks are being cleared to cross the borders. This has led to a continued buildup of traffic jams at the borders, further negating the recent efforts by the two countries to restore trade through the seamless flow of goods across their borders.
To further mitigate this, Kenya and Uganda agreed to increase the capacity of testing truck drivers at Malaba and Busia. Kenya has therefore committed to deploying health officials to conduct Covid-19 rapid tests on the Kenyan side. Uganda on the other hand will increase the number of health workers at the borders to speed up the testing of trucks crossing into Uganda. Uganda has also extended the free Covid-19 testing hours at midnight.
Ugandan authorities, on 20th December last year, directed testing of all incoming travelers, including truck drivers at their own cost. The directive proposed the review of the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System (RECDTS), which allows Covid 19 testing after 14 days, to a shorter duration due to the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, which has a shorter incubation period.
This prompted resistance from the transport and logistics industry resulting into a huge traffic deadlock at Busia and Malaba borders since the beginning of 2022.
The health Ministers of the EAC are expected to meet separately and propose revisions to the current EAC protocols start discussions on the updating the Regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking System (RECTDS).
The Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA) and other private sector organizations have been urging the EAC partner states to continue engaging until a revised mutually agreed position is reached in the brotherly spirit of the EAC.