Cross border truck drivers in the East African Community (EAC) will receive COVID certificates through the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System (RECDTS). A letter from the EAC Secretariat says that member states should roll out RECDTS, following successful piloting from 18th July 2020.
“It is important to know that from 24th July 2020, all COVID certificates for cross border truck drivers shall be issued from RECDTS platform. EAC wishes partner states to officially inform all transporters about this regional initiative and sensitize them to have drivers registered in the mentioned system,” reads the letter from the EAC Secretariat.
Upgrades in the RECDTS, a system once used to track cargo only, will help track individuals. This will enable the smooth coordination of information across the transport corridor, allowing stakeholders to share critical information. Health officials will be able to scan a QR code on the electronic COVID certificate at specific points, validate, and update health status information in the system.
According to the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), drivers who test positive will not receive new electronic certificates. Trucking companies will have to send relief drivers to continue journeys of drivers who test positive for COVID-19.
COVID Certificates to Ease Cross border transport
Industry players say that that the electronic certificates will help curb delays at border points caused by verification of manual certificates. COVID-19 screening and tight freight controls at border points have led to a 40% drop in trade volumes within the EAC, as well as massive losses of perishable goods.
The pandemic increased the time taken to move cargo from Mombasa to Kampala by five days, from 2-4 days to 7-9 days. Journeys to Kigali now take 14-16 days from 7-8 days last year, while a trip from Mombasa to South Sudan now takes 21-26 days compared to 9-10 days before the pandemic.
Further, delays increased the cost of transporting cargo within the region. FEAFFA says cargo transportation costs for Mombasa – Kampala increased by $1000 (Ksh 108,000). Costs to Kigali, Bujumbura and Juba also increased by $1400 (Ksh 151,000), $2000 (KSh 216,000), and $2400 (Ksh 259,000) respectively.
Electronic certificates in the RECDTS system will reduce both turnaround time and costs of transporting cargo within the region.