THE East African Business Council (EABC) has urged partner states to fast-track digitalisation of transport and logistics value chains to enhance efficiency and export competitiveness of the EAC bloc.
The call comes on the backdrop of Tanzania and Burundi ratifying the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
Speaking during the East African Maritime Leaders Round Table, organised by EABC last week, EABC Chairperson Nicholas Nesbitt asserted that Articles 93-94 of the treaty for EAC establishment calls for cooperation among port authorities and harmonisation of tariffs and regulations in the region, hence the need of digitisation of transportation.
Mr Nesbitt was optimistic that the adoption of digital technologies to automate the EAC shipping, transport and logistics industry, will reduce the cost of doing business, improve export competitiveness and ease the movement of cargo from the ports, transporters to clients.
“Congestion, delays, complex freight clearance procedures, inadequate storage and berthing facilities piracy and terrorism are among the challenges at the ports,” he remarked.
The EABC Chairman also urged the EAC Secretariat to develop an Integrated Maritime Safety and Security Strategy and the review of the EAC Customs Management Act.
On his part, the Chairperson of Kenya Transporters Association Newton Wang'oo called for the harmonisation, digitalisation, reduction and simplification of export procedures and documents.
He further recommended re-configuration of the Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) on the declaration module to accept multiple containers, citing that a consignment of 20 containers of export tea requires 21 customs declarations to process that is, one E100 and 20 E112s for each container.
The East African Maritime Leaders Round Table was attended by over 50 business leaders.
Among other things, the round table discussions recommended for the improvement of hard and soft infrastructure to address cost of doing business, Public-Private Dialogue to improve production and productivity and addressing supply-side constraints, improving access to capital, simplification of documentation requirements to export, improving Infrastructure connectivity – road, rail and waterways in order to take advantage of the AfCFTA.
Last week, Tanzania ratified AfCFTA, effectively joining a pact connecting countries with a total gross domestic product of 3.4 trillion US dollars.
Minister for Industry and Trade, Prof Kitila Mkumbo, made the announcement via Twitter, noting the country has joined a market of 1.3 billion customers.
AfCFTA was first opened for signing in April 2018 but came into application in 2019 after the requisite minimum of 21 of the 55 member states ratified it.