EAC to promote regional trade through EACPass

EAC to promote regional trade through EACPass
A picture showing the East African Community Headquarters. [Photo: Courtesy]

The East African Community Secretariat is expected to hold a multi-sectoral meeting today to discuss the adoption of the East African Community Pass (EACPass).

The EAC pass is aimed at easing intra-EAC trade and curbing blockages and disruptions at the borders of partner states.

The meeting will be attended by the East African Community partner states’ ministers for EAC Affairs on transport and health to deliberate on the issue.

The idea of the EACPass was approved by the 21st meeting of the sectoral council of ministers responsible for health on December 10, 2021, to be a platform in the region to facilitate the movement of all travellers.

The meeting also directed the partner states to enhance the implementation and use of EACPass for quick verification of COVID-19 test certificates and the vaccination status of travellers. “

In a statement released by the Secretariat, the EAC Secretary-General, Peter Mutuku Mathuki, stressed that the benefits were being overlooked by trade stalemates at the EAC border points. He added that a coordinated approach would help as the region recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “Harmonisation of COVID-19 charges and coordinated waiting time for COVID results is critical to facilitate business continuity and ease the cost of doing business,” Mathuki said. 

EACPASS allows passage of members of EAC partner states who have negative COVID-19 test results as well as those carrying vaccination cards, to reduce time-wasting at the borders.

“The EACPass is directly integrated to all the six partner states central depository (National Laboratories) and only nationally accredited laboratories are approved to carry out PCR COVID-19 tests for travellers. This is set to build confidence in all partner states since certificates are digitally authenticated from all accredited laboratories in the region,” he explained. 

The statement indicated that COVID-19 tests would be carried out in each partner state, but only the PCR negative results would be sent to the EACPASS for digital access and verification at the entry and exit points of every partner state.

It further indicated that the technical integration of accredited laboratories has been finalised, and digital certificates can be shared to ease the movement of citizens across the region.

 “The piloting of EACPass has started in Republic of Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi, while the other partner states are finalising the internal processes to start the piloting of the same,” Mathuki said. 

Integration a priority

Dr. Mathuki assured the region in his New Year message that they would begin facilitating regional integration in the New Year 2022, which includes intra-EAC trade, easing regional mobility of persons, goods, and services, broadening markets, and promoting peace and security.

A new year offers us a new chapter to hit the reset button, craft a new course for our prosperity, and build back better. Despite a challenging and tumultuous 2021, we remained resilient and committed in our quest to widen and deepen economic, political, social, and cultural integration to improve the quality of life of the people of East Africa, ” he said.

“Our core focus in 2022 will be to continue deepening regional integration to ensure enhanced intra-EAC trade, ease regional movement of persons, services, and goods, widen markets and promote peace and security for a strengthened bloc.”

Mathuki warned the partner states to be vigilant in countering the Omicron variant, which has emerged as a novel threat to humanity.

 “With the recent surge in COVID-19 cases occasioned by the new Omicron variant, I urge you all to remain vigilant and protect yourselves and those around you. Together, we shall defeat the virus,” he said.

“The EAC deeply appreciates all our partners and stakeholders for their dedication to the regional integration agenda and looks forward to your continued cooperation and synergy as we welcome the New Year. It is my hope and prayer that 2022 will be a more bountiful year, especially with the anticipated entry of the Democratic Republic of Congo into the EAC family. “

During the Youth Leadership Summit held in Arusha, Tanzania in November 2021, the youth from the EAC partner states agreed on a resolution that the regional bloc should allow free trade across its borders by increasing permeability.

Jesus Deng Atem, a national legislator in South Sudan, said that it was an important step to discuss free trade since there was a need for mutual benefits in the region.

“We held very significant discussions on customs because South Sudan holds trade with most of its neighbouring countries, and it would be beneficial if free trade were encouraged,” Deng said.

He said that the YouLead summit was a pool of knowledge to youth in the region because it topped up their leadership skills. The YouLead summit was attended by participants from 27 African countries, with 30 young parliamentarians from South Sudan.

Labour mobility

In November 2021, the East African Community (EAC) and the East African Trade Union Confederation (EATUC) agreed to solve drawbacks labour mobility and employment in the region.

This was after EAC and EATUC deliberated on ways of strengthening labour, employment and migration in the region. The policy was meant to be an implementation of a joint program for the exchange of young labourers to solve challenges of labour mobility.

The Secretary-General Dr Peter Mutuku Mathuki called upon the EATUC to fast-track the finalizing and implementation of the draft EAC Labour Migration Policy.

 “Once finalized, the policy will guide laws, policies, and regulations on labour migration within and outside the region,” said Dr. Mathuki.

Mathuki said the Directors in charge of labour meet in February 2022 to cross-examine the draft policy and recommend it for adoption by the EAC Council of Ministers.

“We urge EATUC to also contribute to fast-tracking the finalization and operationalisation of the Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) for professionals to move freely within the region,” he added.

The EATUC Chairperson Peter Werikhe said that a Council of Ministers on Labour and Migration should be formed to encourage frequent sittings to tackle labour, employment and migration issues.

“We also call on EAC to involve all relevant stakeholders, on EAC recovery plans and strategies post-Covid-19 to ensure that the decent work agenda is enshrined,” he said.

Dr. Francis Atwoli, the Secretary-General of Central Organization of Trade Unions in Kenya (COTU-K) urged EAC to involve social partners in developing the regional stance at the International Labour Conference (ILC).

“We need to strengthen the voice and agenda of EAC, by strategically developing structures to influence opportunities that can benefit East Africans,” said Atwoli.