The app blends SMS, email, and phone reporting methods, offering economic operators a one-stop solution for effectively reporting Non-Tariff Barriers to trade.
The East African Community (EAC) Secretariat has unveiled a new mobile phone-based app aimed at the elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs).
The EAC NTBs App innovation is expected to improve the region’s trading landscape by streamlining the reporting, monitoring, and resolution of impediments that traders face while conducting business across borders.
The app funded by the Dutch government through TradeMark Africa blends SMS, email, and phone reporting methods, offering economic operators a one-stop solution for effectively reporting Non-Tariff Barriers to trade.
It also ensures transparency and quick resolution of issues by engaging technical and policy-level mechanisms, such as National Focal Points, the National Monitoring Committees, and the Regional Monitoring Committee.
Annette Ssemuwemba, the EAC Deputy Secretary General for Customs, Trade, and Monetary Affairs, said the initiative will greatly help create a smooth trading environment across the EAC region.
“We are dedicated to eradicating the barriers that impede economic growth, and integration. This innovative solution serves as a powerful tool to empower traders, producers, and economic operators offering them with a unified platform to promptly address and resolve NTBs,” she said.
She added that the removal of NTBs is a step towards a more efficient and equitable trade environment as they hinder the smooth flow of trade, especially through procedural complexities, or administrative hurdles.
Trademark Africa Director for Trade Policy, Benedict Musengele said that the not-for-profit company will continue fostering a vibrant and conducive trade environment that propels economic growth and regional integration.
"This revolutionary app is a testament to our commitment to providing strategic solutions in digital trade,” emphasized Musengele.
The EAC Regional Meeting Committee report (2023) estimated the direct costs of NTBs at 16.7 million dollars and total trade impact at 94.9 million, decreasing trade by an average of 58%.
However, since 2017, EAC has resolved 89.5% of the reported NTBs (EAC Time Bound Programme report, 2023).
In addition, there has been a relatively steady decrease in reported NTBs.
They include issues that can hinder trading effectively such as discriminatory requirements for special licenses and permits, excessive paperwork, complicated customs procedures, and bureaucratic delays at borders.
Between June 2022 and June 2023, a total of 16 NTB complaints were reported within EAC. Out of these, nine NTBs have been resolved while seven complaints remain in progress.
However, a notable portion of complaints, specifically (43.75 percent) were still in progress by the end of June 2023.
The EAC NTBs App allows the users to report complaints in one of the three EAC official languages; English, Swahili, and French, and can be downloaded from the Apple Store, Google’s Play Store, and other Android devices.