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Opinion & Analysis

Remove barriers that hinder cross border trade in East Africa

As traders rue missed opportunities related to Uganda choosing Tanzania over Kenya on the pipeline route, other initiatives are continuing to spur intra trade in the East Africa.

Hopefully, the recent initiative by Kenya and Uganda supported by a number of global and regional bodies to create a common platform for facilitating cross-border trade in fish and fishery products, using the Busia border point will succeed.

The cumbersome and punitive inspection protocols for animal, human and plant products across the countries, which have different requirements and standards, have made it difficult for intra trade between the two countries.

Uganda has a bigger supply for fish products, which on many occasions go to waste, while traders in Kenya face huge domestic demand for fish products that local and export consumption cannot access because of stringent standards and different trade regimes within the two countries.

Many fish processing plants relocated from Western Kenya to Jinja and Kampala in Uganda, while several fish landing beaches along Lake Victoria such as Migori, Mbita, Asembo Bay, Usenge, Osieko, Port Victora, Sio Port and Bukoma are barely surviving while small beach towns in Uganda along the lake are flourishing.

Among the challenges that the fish sector in Uganda and Kenya has faced include a weak policy framework, limited access to markets, low productivity (yields) and outputs (quantities), weak institutional capacity, weak monitoring and evaluation and lack of use of informational technology.

For that reason, the sector has suffered enough and its contribution to food security and wealth creation not felt across Africa in general and Kenya in particular.

To ease the cross border trade in fish and fish products, that will allow increased intra trade within the two countries and by extension export to other countries, a number of activities and facilities are to be established at the Busia border point that will provide quick inspection of human, animal and plant products health both at and behind borders.

The focus of the initiative is fish, milk and maize stakeholders at Busia and Malaba borders. The pilot is among the several initiatives being implemented by partners in the business community as a way of increasing the level of intra trade volumes in Africa including: the EAC.

Africa’s participation in the global fish trade is fairly limited. African trade in fish and fishery products is approximately 4.9 per cent of total value of traded.

Africa was a net exporter between 1985–2010 and a net importer since 2011 in quantity terms. In addition to limited global participation, Africa’s capacity for intra-regional trade is also low.

Mr Bwire comments on topical issues.

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