An information exchange system that will allow East Africans to report non-tariff barriers (NTBs) via a short message service on their mobile phone has been developed in Uganda.

Sam Watasa, lead adviser on Uganda’s national response strategy for the elimination of NTBs says , “The system, set up at a cost of $100,000, will provide a clear record of NTBs, and help the country assess progress in eliminating them.”

“When you use the hard copy form and take it to the appropriate desk, it takes anywhere between one and three months before the matter is dealt with.  Under the new system, the message will reach the department that introduced the NTB immediately.”

Under the new system, a person experiencing a barrier sends an SMS to code 201, at a cost of Ush150 ($0.06).

The Ministries of Trade and Industry and East African Community Affairs, whose responsibility it is to ensure that Uganda does not create any impediments to trade, also receive the message, and are in turn expected to push the government department that introduced the NTB to remove it.

The move comes at a time when the region is working to eliminate trade barriers as laid out in the Common Market Protocol, which allows the free movement of goods, labour, services and capital.

The existence of NTBs has been blamed for the stagnation in intra-EAC trade which has remained below 13 per cent over the past three years. Intra-EAC trade rose from $3.8 billion in 2012 to $4.5 billion in 2013.

Source: The East African