THE government of Finland and TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) have signed a financial agreement worth 10.5 million euros (about 29bn/-) to support the East African Community (EAC) post Covid-19 recovery.
Through the Finnish funding, TMEA will scale up support to EAC governments to adopt Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for trade systems in key trade agencies that contribute to the successful implementation of National Single Windows.
Single Window is a paradigm of governance in which traditional government regulatory functions are re-engineered into transparent, efficient and predictable services to meet the needs and expectations of citizens and businesses.
The financial agreement was signed in Mombasa, Kenya recently with the government of Finland being represented by its Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Erik Lundberg, who reiterated its commitment to supporting regional trade and the fight against Covid-19 pandemic in the East African region.
TMEA has laid frameworks and forged partnerships to support multimodal transport corridors that not only reduce costs associated with trade, but also reduce the carbon footprint of transport. Lake and rail transport produce much less emission per tonne of cargo moved as compared to road transport.
Efforts will go towards supporting digital trade corridors, safe sanitary and phytosanitary trade corridors bolster trade remedies structures at national, regional and continental levels, investments in standards quality infrastructure centres of excellence.
There will also be scaling up of regional authorised economic operator schemes and authorised supply chains frameworks. The infrastructure will be critical in reducing barriers to trade and supporting smooth implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The new funding will build up on results that have been achieved in previous programmes funded by Finland and other development partners over the last ten years. They include development of the passenger terminal at Mombasa Port.
Some of the other high-level results from the interventions include reduction in import and export times at Mombasa and Dar es Salaam ports, 70 per cent average decline in time to pass through 15 TMEA supported One-Stop Border Posts (OSBPs).
There is also a registered reduction in clearance time for certified goods and testing costs through harmonisation of standards, automation of trade facilitation processes for 19 government agencies leading to an average clearance time from 79 hours to two hours.
Other achievements include development of e-portals and single windows that have simplified the work of 86 per cent of the interviewed traders within the EAC business community. That led to significant savings of approximately 6.6m US dollars and working with over 30,000 women cross border traders, to increase their knowledge on cross trade practices and opportunities leading to an increase in trader's average monthly income from 620 US dollars to 1,247 US dollars.
Finland's support to TMEA's Safe Trade, that is being implemented in ten countries will enable continuous efforts to provide essential services at the key entry and exit points while keeping front line border workers safe.
Safe Trade has ensured collaboration to combat Covid-19 through provision of platform for Covid-19 response by public and private allies, partnering with the EAC in leading the regional dialogues and policy interventions, provision of protective equipment, supporting roll-out and uptake of the Regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking System (RECDTS) and construction of safe trade zones for women traders across various borders.
Finland Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Lundberg said: “We strongly believe that trade and development go hand in hand. When trading and doing business becomes easier it also lifts more people out of poverty. We highly appreciate the work that TMEA has done with the informal traders at the borders, majority of whom are women, ensuring that the fruits of free trade trickle down to the most vulnerable groups as well.”
The event was officiated by Kenya's Ministry of East Africa and Regional Development Principal Secretary, Dr Kevit Desai and witnessed by TMEA Board Chairman, Ambassador Erastus Mwencha, TMEA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Frank Matsaert and TMEA Country Director, Mr Ahmed Farah.
PS Desai appreciated Finland's continued support to promoting efficient and increased trade in the region and the continued fight against the Covid-19 Pandemic.
TMEA's Board Chair, Ambassador Mwencha said Finland's support would contribute to TMEA scaling up its partnership with EAC member state governments and other stakeholders to deliver sustainable and efficient transport and infrastructure for reduced barriers to trade, improve trading standards, sanitary and phytosanitary issues for reduced barriers to trade, and improve business competitiveness in the EAC region.