World Chambers of Commerce have honored a Tanzanian-designed scheme to use cell phones to identify and help overturn barriers to free trade across East Africa.
The scheme won second prize in the World Chambers of Commerce competition for the best project amongst a field of other groundbreaking innovations from Britain, China, the Slovak Republic and Turkey.
The short messaging system (SMS) online non-tariff barrier (NTB) reporting and monitoring mechanism was developed by the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA) to get the business community not just to grumble about NTBs but to log them, report them and get them referred to those with the power to overturn them.
“Already within East Africa other countries are expressing interest in the system. To get that international recognition for a project designed and driven by the private sector is great,” said Pauline Elago, Country Manager of TradeMark East Africa, which backed the scheme.
It is the first of its kind in East Africa and is a beacon in the battle against NTBs, regulatory or official hurdles which slow free commerce and add to the cost of transporting goods to the region, which already has the highest transport costs in the world.
““It is a great pleasure to see that the in-house innovation can stretch its wings to the international community. The recognition that the NTBs SMS and online reporting and monitoring system has received is evidence that what we do, as a private sector, in creating favorable business environment adds value to the lives of people; not only because the world can see it but most importantly, that we contribute towards improving people’s welfare by making it easier to report and for authorities to monitor and eliminate all barriers hindering trade flow”, said Executive Director, TCCIA, Dan Machemba.
NTBs are any hurdle to trade outside of customs and taxes and East Africa has hundreds of them from duplicated weighbridges to ‘flying’ or ungazetted police roadblocks to bureaucratic restrictions that cost time and money..
The award was announced during the World Chambers Congress held in Doha, Qatar this month To see other finalists visit: http://www.iccwbo.org/training-and-events/competitions-and-awards/world-chamber-competition/2013-world-chambers-competition-finalists/
The scheme has been supported by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), a multi-donor-funded development agency seeking to streamline EAC trade to cut the cost of doing business and sow prosperity through strong economic integration.
The East Africa Community is one of the fastest growing Regional Economic Communities in the world today, yet the cost of trading across borders and transport costs specifically continue to be among the highest. .
Experts estimate that transport accounts for 40 percent of the cost of goods in East Africa – anything from plasma TVs to water pumps – once they reach the retailer’s counter or factory floor.
To date, the system has received about 2,770 SMSs from the users/business community and has sent out about 2,370 SMSs to respond to the reported complaints. About 40 complaints have been listed as NTBs out of which 21 have been eliminated and others are at different levels of elimination.
TCCIA acts as the private sector focal point on NTBs and gathers evidence so that it can lobby for their elimination. The system is also a source of information for policy makers who are directly responsible for some of those very NTBs.