With intra-EAC trade on the decline, businesses are pushing for the harmonization of standards for more products which would facilitate market access and improve the competitiveness of exporters in the region.
The East Africa Business Council says that harmonizing the standards of most commonly traded goods in the region will increase trade volumes because goods will cross borders without being subjected to multiple testing.
While 94 standards have been harmonized, many products are still subjected to different quality standards.
“Certification of products based on harmonized standards is contributing to trade in the EAC by reducing the time and cost of doing business,” states a new study by the EABC.
It shows that harmonized standards improved competitiveness and market access for the six most traded products in the region by 18 per cent.
The study, which sampled six out of the 20 most traded products, shows that uniform standards translated into increased intra-EAC trade from $291.2 million in 2010 to $343 million in 2014.
They also contributed to raising extra-EAC trade by 12 per cent, from $851.6 million in 2010 to $950.8 million in 2014.
The total export value, both intra and extra, increased to $1.2 billion in 2014 from $1.1 billion in 2010, a 13 per cent rise.
The products were sugar and sugar confectioneries; minerals; maize and related products; essential oils and cosmetics; iron and steel related products; alcoholic beverages; edible fats, oils and packaging materials.
The study shows that the standards mark of quality reduces time required to clear the products at border points from an average of 38 days in 2010 to half a day. The cost of delays declined from $500 per consignment to zero. Harmonization is part of the EAC Standardization, Quality Assurance, Metrology and Testing Act (2006) that provides for regional co-operation on standards, metrology, conformity assessment, accreditation and technical regulations.