rademark East African (TMEA) has played a significant role in responding to Covid 19, which has more than halved economic growth in many countries, particularly in East Africa.
TMEA has responded by creating Covid-19 mitigation programmes that leveraged on its ten years of experience. The agency accelerated its core programmes with higher levels of innovation and forged new partnerships to address challenges to Eastern Africa’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
In its 2019-2020 Annual Report, Frank Matsaert Chief Executive Officer, applauds Safe Trade Emergency Facility (Safe Trade) that TMEA developed and rolled out when Covid-19 first hit East Africa in March last year. The programme is supported by the European Union, Finland, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
“With the sudden onset of Covid-19, trade was heavily curtailed due lockdowns and closure of borders to avoid the spread of the pandemic. Safe Trade supported the continued flow of essential commodities like food and medicines through borders as Covid-19 persists,” Matsaert said, adding that this commitment is powered by governments to keep borders operating and to enhance efficiency of the transport corridors from ports to land borders, thus ensuring that land-linked countries maximise the potential of international trade.
Safe Trade continues to play a critical role in coordinating responses to Covid-19 in partnership with the region’s governments and the private sector, with the objective of keeping trade moving, thus protecting jobs and livelihoods.
The Reduced Barriers to Trade component has accelerated digitalisation to build smarter physical infrastructure, systems and processes that has spurred the region’s competitiveness to ensure long-term economic recovery.
“This is in addition to supporting multi-modal transport systems across Eastern Africa. Our work on Improved Business Competitiveness has remained responsive to the needs of private and public stakeholders by supporting policy reforms, uptake of innovative business solutions, and targeted programming to 50,000 more women traders at 20 more borders across Eastern Africa,” Matsaert said.
TMEA supported Private Public Partnership Dialogues (PPD) that brought trade negotiations between the East African countries and other parts of the world, leading to mutually beneficial trade agreements. The PPD approach provided great lessons on the possibilities that advocacy presents as Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) operationalization materializes.
For the first time, TMEA has presented highlights and results from ten and not the usual seven countries in which TMEA now operates. The agency has expanded to reach across Eastern and Southern Africa with the addition of new programmes in Malawi, Ethiopia, and Somaliland in the year under focus.
TMEA improved infrastructure and systems at the Port of Mombasa, with Magongo and Kipevu Roads progressing to more than 50% completion. TMEA also supported first, middle, and last mile supply chains, ensured private sector access to market information, and supported development of 15 digital portals for trade in Government agencies. These portals have simplified export and import transaction costs.
The ongoing works at Moyale Border – between Kenya and Ethiopia – will link the East Africa to the Horn, with improvements on this corridor expected to open a market of over 160 million people. In Somaliland, improvements on Berbera Corridor continued with the commencement of Hargesia Bypass construction.
“ Our “Good neighbour approach” supported programming in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where continuous engagement with national and provincial Governments paved way for extension of the Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System (RECTS), and the construction of a One Stop Border Post (OSBP) at Goli with its border with Uganda,” Matsaert said.
These trade facilitation interventions such as improved customs, removal of non-tariff barriers, and training of private sector will help DRC to lower its significantly high costs of trade with East African Community (EAC) neighbours.
Safe Trade programme has been making its impact and success by ensuring that truck drivers are effectively tracked through e-platforms; EAC policies on “COVID-19 Essential Goods” and e-commerce are enhanced; critical supply chain trade is facilitated; and, TMEA’s existing programmes are accelerated and enhanced.
Advocacy was central in positioning the emergency project as well as steering the region towards stability against COVID-19 disruptions. TMEA partnered with implementing partners in carrying out carrying out rapid impact surveys to facilitate public- private sector dialogue that yielded good benefits.
Some of the intermediate outcomes include free movement of workers, and extending curfew hours to 9pm in Rwanda and Kenya; increased VAT refunds and payment of government bills, thus enhancing liquidity; waiver of import duty for maize and agricultural inputs to enhance food security and reduction of import tariffs for manufacturing inputs; and budgetary allocations for various sectors as part of the stimulus package for recovery.
TMEA supplied Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) worth approx US$ 1.5Million, testing and quarantine facilities including locally fabricated hand washing stations, infrared thermometers, hand sanitisers, liquid hand washing soap and disinfectant sprays.
The agency supported the EAC secretariat to develop and roll out the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System (RECDTS). By October 2020, over 60,000 drivers were registered on the app and 47,000 certificates issued.
Trade policy protocols indicating step border clearance flows to facilitate movement of goods across borders were developed and circulated
About US$2.1 million is committed to developing, implementing and rolling out the Safe Trade Zone (STZ) that will provide safe spaces for women cross border traders to trade despite movement restrictions to ensure incomes are protected.