BURUNDI – In a monumental stride towards enhancing regional trade, the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat has introduced a groundbreaking mobile application, the EAC NTBs App, designed explicitly to eliminate Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs).

Spearheaded by TradeMark Africa (TMA) and funded by the Netherlands, this innovative app aims to revolutionize the regional trading landscape by simplifying the reporting, monitoring, and resolution of obstacles that impede cross-border trade within the EAC member states.

The EAC NTBs App integrates various reporting methods, including SMS, email, and phone, providing economic operators with a centralized platform to promptly report NTBs encountered during trade activities.

This streamlined process empowers traders and producers to address impediments efficiently, ensuring transparency and swift resolution through engagement with technical and policy-level mechanisms such as National Focal Points, National Monitoring Committees (NMCs), and the Regional Monitoring Committee (RMC).

Ms. Annette Ssemuwemba, EAC Deputy Secretary General overseeing Customs, Trade, and Monetary Affairs, emphasized the app’s pivotal role in creating a seamless trading environment: “This innovative solution empowers economic operators by offering a unified platform to promptly address and resolve NTBs.”

Highlighting the significance of eliminating NTBs, Ms. Ssemuwemba stressed their detrimental impact on economic growth and integration.

“These barriers hinder the smooth flow of goods and services across borders. This app is key to effectively identifying and resolving NTBs in the region,” she said.

Benedict Musengele, Director of Trade Policy and Trade Facilitation at TradeMark Africa, underscored the organization’s commitment to fostering a conducive trade environment: “This app is a testament to our dedication to providing strategic solutions in digital trade, promoting economic growth and regional integration.”

NTBs, such as import licensing, pre-shipment inspections, and rules of origin, significantly hinder trade efficiency.

According to the University of Arizona, these barriers can elevate production and transportation costs, limiting market access for exporters dealing with fresh produce.

The impact of NTBs on trade within the EAC has been substantial, with an estimated direct cost of USD16,703,970 and a total trade impact of USD94,918,000, causing an average trade reduction of 58%, as per the EAC Regional Meeting Committee (RMC) report in 2023.

However, the EAC has successfully resolved 89.5% of reported NTBs since 2017, reflecting a positive trend in reducing such barriers.

The introduction of the EAC NTBs App marks a significant step towards enhancing trade efficiency and fostering a more vibrant trading landscape within the EAC, promising a brighter future for economic operators and regional integration.

Meanwhile, in parallel efforts to bolster Kenya’s fresh produce exports, TradeMark Africa (TMA) forged a crucial agreement with the National Horticulture Taskforce (NHT).

The collaboration aims to strengthen and sustain investments in Kenya’s mango, avocado, and vegetable value chains, with a vision to transition 50% of Kenya’s fresh produce exports from air to sea-freight by 2030.

Ahmed Farah, Kenya Country Director at TMA, highlighted the partnership’s role in integrating sustainable production methods, aligning with global calls for net-zero carbon emissions.

The signing ceremony in Nairobi underscored a strategic move towards industry transformation, setting the stage for substantial progress in Kenya’s fresh produce exports and the overall regional trade landscape.

For all the latest fresh produce industry news updates from Africa, the Middle East, and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.