The multinational TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) initiative has been bearing fruit and, with its first phase having proved a success, it is now moving into its second phase. TMEA involves Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, and is focused on promoting trade between the countries of the region (and between the region and the wider world) in order to stimulate economic growth, increase prosperity and reduce poverty. (TradeMark is actually an acronym for Trade and Markets.) The initiative is overseen by a not-for-profit company with its head office in Nairobi, Kenya, and branch offices in each of the other five countries. TMEA is also supported by aid funding from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.
Intraregional trade within East Africa has been hampered by high import and export costs. These costs, in turn, have been the result of nontariff barriers on the main trade routes, a lack of skills in both the public and private sectors, and inadequate transport infrastructure.
TMEA is active in all areas that directly affect trade: administration, regulation, standards, tariffs and physical infrastructure. These are all grouped into three ‘pillars’: increase the physical access to markets; improve the trade environment; and increase the competitiveness of East African business.
Phase 1 of TMEA has brought real and beneficial results. The British Department for International Development (DfID) has cited five in particular.
Technology and simplified paperwork have reduced bureaucratic procedures and speeded up processes. For example, in Tanzania food permits which used to take 65 hours to process and issue now only take two hours. National standards for 80 of the most traded local products have been harmonised, eliminating unnecessary red tape and bringing lower prices to consumers, while ensuring food safety. For example, maize from one East African country can now be sold in the other East African countries without having to be retested in each of the importing States.
Six border posts have been rebuilt and recommissioned; the result is that the transit times at these post has been cut in half. In the ports of both Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Mombasa (Kenya), infrastructure projects (which are continuing) have already reduced freight clearance and export time by some 50%. And transit time along the region’s two main corridors (Bujumbura, in Burundi, to Dar es Salaam, and Kigali, in Rwanda, to Mombasa) has been reduced by 16.5%, even though the traffic and trade along these routes has increased.
In Nairobi last week, UK International Development Secretary (Cabinet Minister) Penny Mordaunt launched British support for TMEA Phase 2 while on an official visit to Kenya. This funding will total £211-million. This represents a significant increase in British support for the initiative. “In Nairobi, Ms Mordaunt saw how the first phase of the programme has cut customs clearance times – from an average of nine to two days – and reduced the cost of trading across the region with new cargo-tracking technologies and improved infrastructure,” stated the DfID media release.
Phase 2 will have four main areas of focus. One will be to make investments to increase the capacity and efficiency of major border and port logistics, transport and trade infrastructure. Another will be to make the policy and regulatory framework more trade friendly. There will also be a focus on supporting private-sector lobbying in favour of increased trade competitiveness, greater export capacity for local and regional businesses, and the augmented involvement of small and growing business, and women, in trade.