The system is expected to be in use in all the EAC Partner States – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda – and extended to EAC neighbouring countries particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Coordinated action at the regional and even continental level is possible, especially as the continent starts implementing Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), speakers during the virtual launch of the Regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking System (RECDTS) echoed.
The East Africa Community (EAC) Secretariat and its Partner States yesterday held a virtual roll out event to mark the technical completion and development of the RECDTS.
Frank Matsaert, the Chief Executive Officer of Trademark East Africa said that the current pandemic has in many ways revealed how crucial the facilitation of trade is in times of crisis.
“It shows us that trade must become more fluid so that producers are able to access markets,” Matsaert said
The Chair of the EAC Council of Ministers who also doubles as the State Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Republic of Rwanda, Hon Prof Nshuti Manasseh said that effective implementation of RECDTS is critical to trade facilitation in the region as well as the recovery of regional economies.
“The truck driver is critical in the supply chain of this region. In this regard, I appeal to all stakeholders to look at the positive side of things and support the implementation of the system”, he said
On his part, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in-charge of Productive and Social Sector, Hon Christophe Bazivamo commended the progress in the development of the RECDTS remarking, “today’s roll out proves that livelihoods and achieve competition and quality.”
The system is expected to be in use in all the EAC Partner States – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda – and extended to EAC neighbouring countries particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The task of ensuring that imported goods reach consumers lies in the hands of truck drivers; and as the coronavirus spread in the region, the transit corridors were identified as conduits for the spread of infections. In efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the health authorities developed protocols requiring truck drivers to be tested.
RECDTS will resolve some of the challenges that were being experienced in execution of health protocols including: Multiple testing of truck drivers at border crossing as there lacked a framework of mutual recognition; Documentary fraud; where truck drivers would forge national certificates and use them to cross borders.
Conflicting test results was also a common challenge – this would happen when the same driver tested in one country having negative results, would be declared positive after being tested again in another country.
RECDTS is designed as a mobile phone application and will enable the issuance of the EAC COVID-19 digital certificates that are mutually recognised by Partner States, thus eliminating the need for multiple testing as well as contributing to alleviating ongoing congestion at East Africa border crossing points.
RECDTS provides a surveillance system to monitor long distance truckers’ crew health and enables contact tracing. It allows Partner States to electronically share truck drivers’ COVID-19 test results; therefore, minimising the need for multiple COVID-19 tests in a single trip.
The reliance on manual certificates and delayed test results at the borders has been reported as one of the main reasons of long delays at border points, such as those witnessed in Busia, Malaba, Nimule and Elegu.
Some of the delays have caused tail backs of trucks measuring tens of kilometres in some cases. The development of EAC app with funding from European Union, Global Affairs Canada, Danida, Finland, Netherlands and United Kingdom through TradeMark East Africa was in accordance with the directive given by the 1st Joint Ministerial meeting of EAC Ministers responsible for Health and EAC Affairs.
When addressing the meeting, the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA) president Mr. Fred Seka said that “he private sector appealed for continued sensitization of end users of the system, acceptability of the system across the region, harmonization of covid19 testing fees, embedment of the logistics sector covid19 SOPs and the Journey Management System in the system.”
Speaking during the roll out, the EU ambassador to Kenya H.E Simon Mordue said “A common approach to tackling the threat of Corona Virus to the East African Community’s economy is paramount. The RECDTS platform is an example of this solution, as it enables several ministries of health in the region to work together in stemming the spread of the virus across borders.”
He also noted that the RECDTS will provide an efficient, transparent and accessible way to support the formal trade across the EAC borders and will help in sustaining the EAC economies, now and in the near future.