EAC Trade volumes have dropped by 40% due to the restrictions on the movement of people and goods. The volumes of EAC trade dropped significantly after February when the onset of coronavirus resulted in tight freight controls at key border points, allowing the passage of agricultural and food products only.
“Intra trade volumes in the EAC have dropped to between 30 and 40 percent in the past three months,” said Kenneth Bagamuhunda, EAC Director-General, and Customs & Trade. “This can be attributed to the restrictions imposed on the movement of cargo trucks from the ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam to Malaba, Busia, Mutukula, Rusumo, and other border points within the community.”
Restrictions of peoples’ movements across borders further lowered EAC trade volumes, cutting down informal trade. Informal trade accounts for up to 30% of Uganda’s exports.
COVID-19 Testing Slowing EAC Trade
Further, activities to slow down the spread of the virus, such as screening at border points, continue to slow down trucks’ movement across borders. Testing facilities in the Malaba and Namanga borders now bring long queues, reducing volumes cleared. An East African report shows that the number of trucks cleared at the Namanga border fell from 3000 before the pandemic to less than 500.
Other border points in the region have also experienced similar challenges, leading to huge losses of perishable goods.
“The Rusumo border from Rwanda to Tanzania was also affected when Rwanda insisted on testing truck drivers for coronavirus, thus affecting the smooth flow of goods to Kigali,” Bagamuhunda added.