Efforts to make regional trade cheaper, faster and simpler in East Africa are ticking up and boosting economic integration.
Efforts by UNCTAD and TradeMark East Africa to ease trade in East Africa are going from strength to strength.
On 4 July the two organizations signed a US$3.1 million agreement for the second phase of a project focused on facilitating trade in the region.
The first phase of the project was implemented between 2016 and 2018 with a budget of $3.4 million.
“Trade has surged in the region thanks to our work together. We look forward to building on our joint achievements in facilitating reforms that are stimulating trade both within and beyond the region,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.
TradeMark East Africa’s chief executive officer, Frank Matsaert, said: “Our partnership has helped the countries in the region to put trade on an upward trajectory. Through our joint commitment, we’ll achieve even more success.”
The project’s second phase will be implemented over four years.
It will build on the institutional governance set by the trade facilitation sub-committee of the East African Community (EAC) and national trade facilitation committees (NTFCs) in each partner state.
The partner states in the project are Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Trade facilitation will boost intra-regional trade and increase the competitiveness of the countries in the EAC.
This phase of the project is expected to enhance the role and capacity of the NTFCs as coordinating entities of trade facilitation reforms and help them focus on simplifying cross-border trade procedures.
The project is designed to build the capacity of NTFCs to create and sustainably manage enquiry points that offer information and assistance to traders.
It is expected to enhance the transparency of trade procedures through trade information portals and strengthen the capacity of the EAC trade facilitation sub-committee to drive national and regional trade initiatives.
Trade portals and capacity-building
The first phase of the project saw the construction of four national trade information portals in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as a regional trade portal. Burundi’s trade portal is being finalized.
The national portals have enabled the creation of a trade index that allows comparisons of steps in import, export and transit procedures among the partner states.
In addition, more than 200 members of the NTFCs, including 90 women, were trained in the formulation of action plans and project proposals to secure funding for trade facilitation.
At the policy level, ministers of trade from the partner states adopted a ministerial declaration in December 2018 committing to boost the implementation of a customs union through trade facilitation and increase intra-regional trade.
The first phase of the collaboration between UNCTAD and TMEA also resulted in the publication of a comprehensive comparative analysis of the gender implications of regional integration and trade policy in the EAC member states.
The report used gender-disaggregated and comparable data to present an analysis of gender inequalities, institutional and legal frameworks on gender equality and their implications for trade performance in the region and women’s participation in international trade.
The two organizations also formulated an advocacy strategy based on evidence gathered through research activities and provided policymakers and civil society with a practical guide on how to develop gender-sensitive trade policies in the region.
They trained 86 policymakers, academicians and members of the civil society and private sector on how to create a gender-responsive trade environment in the region.