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Opinion & Analysis

Why intra-trade holds the key to regional growth

As traders rue missed opportunities relating to Uganda choosing Tanzania over Kenya on the pipeline route, other initiatives are going on to spur intra-trade in East African.

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 Busia Border point will succeed.

Many times, the cumbersome and punitive inspection protocols for animal, human and plant products across the countries, which have different requirements and standards, has 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 a huge domestic demand for fish products for local and export consumption cannot access because of stringent standards and different trade regimes within the two countries.

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 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 has developed the regional sanitary and phytosanitary standards, (SPS) the Inspectors’ guide; standard Operating Procedures; and the Sanitary Measures for Fish and Fishery Products and Roll-Out Plan.

The secretariat of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa(Comesa) jointly with partners have developed a programme called “Breaking Barriers, Facilitating Trade”, among other initiatives.

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

By value, Africa was a net exporter for the period 1985–2010, but a net importer since 2011 in quantity terms, reflecting the lower unit value of imports, mainly for small pelagic species, the Food and Agriculture Organisation(FAO) said.

In addition to limited global participation, Africa’s capacity for intra-regional trade is also low. As a result, official intra-African trade was just 11 per cent of the continent’s total trade between 2007 and 2011, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

While African is losing shares in the global markets, and trading relatively less with itself, intra-regional trade in fish is encouraging, reported to be 24 per cent between 2010 and 2012 as per FAO reports in 2014.

Consequently, fish was reported to be the second most traded agricultural commodity intra-regionally, after sugar UNCTAD data showed in 2013.

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