Kenya is predicting a drop by at least 30 percent of its exports to the East African markets as the public health measures adopted in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak slow cross-border trade.
Kenya, which exported Sh140 billion worth of merchandise to the five East African Community (EAC) market last years, is particularly concerned about the huge number of truck drivers testing positive for Covid-19 at the borders with Uganda and Tanzania.
Uganda and Tanzania remained the leading destinations of Kenyan goods accounting for Sh64 billion and Sh33 billion of Kenya’s exports to EAC respectively.
“We believe with current delays at the border points, trade volumes will fall by at least 30 percent this year,” EAC and Regional Development Cabinet secretary Adan Mohamed told Citizen TV last week.
“Trucks that normally take three days to move from Mombasa to Kampala now take eight days. If this continues for up to six months the drastic will affect the demand side as well.”
During a video conference meeting held last week, Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Salvar Kiir (South Sudan) agreed to adopt a harmonised system for certification and sharing of covid-19 test results.
Tanzania and Burundi are, however, not observing the regional public health measures.
At the meeting, President Kenyatta offered to have Kenya move all the goods heading to the landlocked countries to the Naivasha inland container deport to shorten the trucking distance.
The leaders also directed ministers responsible for health, trade, and transport to finalise and adopt an EAC digital surveillance and tracking system for drivers “for immediate use by partner states”.
This is after the private sector raised concerns over long queues of trucks stretching up to 40km at borders like Malaba as drivers undergo the Covid-19 testing. An average of 1,200 trucks cross the border post daily.
“The EAC Affairs ministry should engage the trade, transport and health counterparts in a bid to ensure measures on Covid-19, do not cause unnecessary cost and time burden to the free movement of goods and services in the EAC region,” the private sector, led by executive director for East African Business Council Peter Mathuki said in a communiqué issued last week.