Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, representatives of the nations - who are members of the East African Community customs union and common market (EAC) - said they would implement trade facilitation reforms including reducing “non-tariff barriers” such as burdensome and incompatible product regulations.
“I feel so proud because this is an opportunity for the EAC countries, many of which are landlocked, to sell their products within the region, in Africa and across the whole world,” said Frederick Ngobi Gume, Uganda’s Minister for Cooperatives, whose country is currently chair of the EAC.
The countries made the commitment during the first UNCTAD Africa eCommerce Week taking place in Nairobi from 10 to 14 December.
“The EAC is a driving force in Africa, displaying good practice in the implementation of trade facilitation reforms,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.
The EAC move comes after most African countries signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTFA) in March 2018.
The AfCFTA envisages establishing an Africa-wide free trade area by building on regional blocs such as the EAC, where trading nations already work together.
The EAC declaration also aligns with the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, which entered into force in February 2017.
In the declaration, EAC countries commit to supporting National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs) as the main vehicle for coordinating the implementation of the trade facilitation measures at the national level.
Intra-EAC trade, while low compared to regions outside Africa, is the highest among regional economic communities (RECs) in Africa at 19.35 percent of exports.