EAC rolls out electronic Covid-19 certificates to ease transportation

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By Allan Olingo

East African countries have moved to ease movement of goods with the roll-out of a system that will allow them to share Covid-19 test results of truck drivers electronically.

The reliance of hard to verify manual certificates has been blamed for costly long delays at the different border points that sometimes last for weeks.

The EAC regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking system, however, will enable authorities to share test results of the drivers and crew facilitating easy information exchange along the transport corridor.

This means no transit cargo will leave the port of Mombasa or any Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) facility without a driver being aligned with the truck and the cargo in the system.

According to a notice by the EAC secretariat to relevant ministries of the member countries, all drivers must upload their Covid-19 certificates to the new system before cargo is armed with tracking gadgets,  a directive which has already been opposed by transporters faulting the short implementation notice.

MINISTERIAL MEETING

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“Following a joint ministerial meeting responsible for Health, Trade and EAC held by video Conference on March 25 and in line with the directive of the Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment held on June 3, the EAC Secretariat with support from trade mark East Africa had finalised the development of EAC Regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking System,” read a section of the circular by Deputy Secretary General EAC Christophe Bazivamo.

Mr Bazivamo said the new system will help in sharing of cross border truck drivers/crews EAC Covid-19 certificates of negative results electronically and facilitate easy information exchange along corridors of transport.

“It is important to know that from July 24, all Covid-19 certificates for cross border trucks drivers shall be issued from the Regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking system (RECDTS) platform,” said Bazivamo.

He added: “EAC wished to request all partner states to officially inform all transporters/truck owners about this regional initiative and sensitise them to have drivers registered in the mentioned system.”

PREMATURE LAUNCH

The system has already received some push back with transporters seeking suspension of the system until their concerns are addressed.

Kenya Transporters Association executive officer Dennis Ombok said they have not been trained on the usage of the system and he only learnt of the implementation last week during stakeholder virtual meeting.

“The launch of the system this week is premature and we need some time for training on how to use it. It involved downloading an app in a smartphone and the one week piloting is a short time considering most drivers are not conversant with the system while some cannot use smartphone effectively,” said Mr Ombok.

“If they do so, it will be a trade barrier they have introduced since it will take time to align cargo, driver and truck to the system as it is required before the cargo is taken from any port facility.”

MANAGE INFORMATION

The electronic Covid-19 certificates system comes as the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), and Trade Mark East Africa deploys medical staff (nurses and doctors) to collect samples for mandatory Covid-19 testing as well as data staff including a statistician to capture and manage information.

“We have also seconded medical staff including doctors, nurses, lab technicians to support Ministry of Health and the Nairobi Metropolitan Services with surveillance at more than ten quarantine serving over 300 hundred clients.

“Data specialist, finance and administrative officers and communication specialists have been deployed to assist the Ministry of Health with the Covid-19 response,” IOM Kenya Chief of Mission, Sharon Demanche said.

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