The East Africa Community (EAC) Secretariat has completed the roll-out of the Regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking System (RECDTS), a development aimed at solving issues like tracking Covid-19 infected truckers and ensuring cargo is safe during transit.
The system is a mobile app and it will facilitate the issuance of the EAC Covid-19 digital certificates that are mutually recognized by partner states.
This will eliminate the need for multiple testing and reduce congestion at border points. The virtual event to mark the completion of the roll-out was witnessed by the EU Ambassador to Kenya Simon Mordue and the ministries of Health in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and the Ministries of East Africa Community in the Partner states.
RECDTS provides a surveillance system to monitor long-distance truckers crew health and enable contact tracing. It allows partner states to electronically share truck drivers’ Covid-19 test results; therefore, minimizing the need for multiple COVID-19 tests in a single trip.
The reliance on manual certificates and delayed test results at the borders has been reported as one of the main reasons for costly long delays at border points, such as those witnessed in Busia, Malaba, Nimule and Elegu. Some of the delays have caused tailbacks of trucks measuring tens of kilometers in some cases.
The EAC developed the app with funding from the European Union, Global Affairs Canada, Danida, Finland, Netherlands and the United Kingdom through TradeMark East Africa and in accordance with the directive given by the 1st Joint Ministerial meeting of EAC ministers responsible for Health and EAC Affairs.
"Additionally RECDTS will contribute to protecting lives, promoting safe trade and especially continuous flow of trade, support health related protocols and facilitate safe trade. RECDTS will be in use in all partner states and will eventually be extended to EAC neighbouring countries, particularly Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)," officials said in a statement.
Prof Nshuti Manasseh, the Chair of the EAC Council of Ministers, who also doubles as Rwanda's state minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, said the effective implementation of RECDTS is critical to trade facilitation in the region as well as the recovery of regional economies.
On his part, Mordue emphasized the importance of taking a common approach to deal with the threat of the Coronavirus to the East African Community’s economy.
"The RECDTS platform is an example of this solution, as it enables several ministries of health in the region to work together in stemming the spread of the virus across borders,” he said.
Ambassador Morude also noted that the RECDTS will provide an efficient, transparent and accessible way to support the formal trade across the EAC borders and will help in sustaining the EAC economies, now and in the near future.
According to the EAC Deputy Secretary General in-charge of Productive and Social Sector Christophe Bazivamo, the "roll-out proves that coordinated action at the regional and even continental level is possible, especially as we start the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade area.
"This kind of coordination is evidence that we can regulate flow of trade, safeguard livelihoods and achieve competition and quality,” he added.
Frank Matsaert, the Chief Executive Officer of TMEA, said that the current pandemic has in many ways revealed how crucial the facilitation of trade is in times of crisis.
"It shows us that trade must become more fluid so that producers are able to access markets," he said. “RECDTs embodies the importance of sustainability of approaches in testing and is indeed one such case. We need coordination and political will to ensure testing at the point of origin is secure and timely as this will contribute greatly to decongesting the borders.”
RECDTS will resolve some of the challenges that were being experienced in the execution of health protocols like multiple testing of truck drivers at border crossing as there lacked a framework of mutual recognition, documentary fraud and conflicting test results.
The system is expected to be in use in all the EAC Partner States – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda – and extended to EAC neighboring countries particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).