A COMMUNITY of small-scale traders (Vibindo Society) has advised governments in the East African Community, including Tanzania to consider allowing citizens to use national identity cards as legal travel documents in order to boost cross border trade.
The Chairman of Vibindo Society, Mr Gaston Kikuwi, said in an interview with the ‘Daily News’ that one of the barriers for increasing cross border trade for small-scale industrialists and other traders is the bureaucracy that surrounds the process of obtaining travel documents in their respective countries.
“The people of East Africa have their national identification cards which are acceptable in all countries. These could also be used in cross border trade where the small-scale industrialists and traders have no passports, ” he said.
Facilitation of the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) has been given emphasis as one of the vehicles for poverty reduction as provided for in article 80 (1) (c) of the EAC establishment. The EAC comprises the countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the recently joined Southern Sudan. In order for the majority Tanzanians to participate in the EAC cross border trade, Kikuwi said that the government needs, among other things, to speed up the process of providing the national identifications cards to as many Tanzanians as possible so that they can participate in the EAC cross border trade.
Apart from identification challenges, Kikuwi mentioned other pitfalls as little understanding of procedures for conducting cross border trade specifically on issues related to laws that are required to be observed by the traders.
Other challenges include delay in the implementation of EAC agreed Single Custom Territory, bureaucracy among public servants at border posts and border check-points which affect cross border trade by encouraging unofficial border routes and bribes.
Also, many public servants lack understanding of the guidance associated with SMEs down from local governments to senior officials in some of the ministerial departments and agencies (MDAs) who should enable cross border traders to operate profitably.
Mr Kikuwi also mentioned other challenges as lack of trust between public and private sectors which make it difficult for the business community to operate; lack of confidence by the SMEs to cross borders; the presence of many tariffs and non-tariff blocs which cause traders to take a long time to access markets and lack of appropriate packaging materials.
He said that the numerous taxes levied on the products of small-scale traders by local government authorities from one district to another coupled with Multi-Regulatory Authorities such as the Tanzania Food and Drug Authority (TFDA); Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration pose big challenges to cross border trade.